EXIT MUSIC by Ian Rankin

Book Quote:

“Sincerity is everything–when you can fake that, the sky’s the limit.”

Book Review:

Review by Guy Savage (OCT 5, 2009)

There are so many novels on the market with new titles piling into bookshops every month, and sometimes it’s difficult to pick the substantive novels from the pap. Perhaps this is especially true in the crime genre which can all too often boil down to formulaic plots in which the crime and its solution go through the necessary, tired and obligatory motions. Here’s a public confession: until September 2009, I’d never read any novels by Scottish author Ian Rankin, but after I watched three films in the Rebus series, I decided it was about time I tried at least one of his novels.

With as many books as I read a year combined with my weakness for crime novels, you’d think I would have read Rankin before. I’d heard of him, certainly, and I’d passed by his books in bookshops without a shred of curiosity. Familiar with his name, I never felt the urge to read one of his books. Is there a point at which authors have such widespread name recognition that they no longer attract new readers? Or was I just stubbornly refusing to “try” a novelist who seemed popular and already has legions of fans? And this brings me to Exit Music. Published in 2007, according to Rankin’s website  it’s the eighteenth novel in the Rebus series which started twenty years earlier in 1987.

It was a bittersweet experience for me to read Exit Music. Bitter because it may well be the last novel in the Rebus series–Rebus is after all on the eve of retirement in the novel. The sweet part of the experience comes from eyeing the stack of Rankin books now sitting on my shelf. Yes, I bought all the others.

If you’ve read Rankin before, then you know what to expect. But if you’re new to Rankin, with Detective Inspector Rebus in charge, forget the warm and fuzzy stuff. If you like your crime fiction dark, if you don’t need a hero, and if you enjoy the crime novels of Val McDermid, then there’s a good chance that you will enjoy Ian Rankin.

In Exit Music, with just ten days left to Rebus’s retirement, a countdown is taking place. Rebus is beginning to wonder if there’s life outside the police force, and his partner, Siobhan Clarke is in the awkward position of planning life without her mentor. Meanwhile Rebus’s departure will mean promotions in the department, so there’s a sense of competition and arse-licking afoot. While two police officers vie for the soon-to-be-open spot, a young newcomer, Todd Goodyear, appears to catch Siobhan’s fancy. Goodyear is methodical and has an interesting past. He might be a good prospect as Siobhan’s new sidekick if he could just stop his bible-quoting habit.

The book begins with the discovery of a dead body. The victim, Alexander Todorov, a prominent Russian dissident and poet, is found viciously beaten to death shortly after leaving a poetry reading. At first it looks like a mugging, but that doesn’t quite fit, and as Rebus and Siobhan investigate, they slowly begin delving into some very shady deals involving Russian gangsters and Rebus’s old nemesis, the Scottish mobster, ruthless Gerald Cafferty.

Exit Music is set in 2006, and while Rebus and Siobhan search for a killer in Edinburgh, Alexander Litvinenko is dying from polonium poisoning in London. It’s enough to make anyone investigating Russians more than a little nervous, and the shadow of Litvinenko’s death stretches all the way to Scotland.

Even though I hadn’t read the other novels in the Rebus series, this didn’t interfere with the sheer enjoyment of Exit Music. I ploughed through over 400 pages in the course of two days. Rebus is a wonderful protagonist, and the fact that he’s facing retirement just raises the stakes. Always one to test the rules, in a couple of scenes, he pushes the envelope and doesn’t bother to hide his contempt for some of those involved in the muck surrounding Todorov’s death. With the finish line in front of him, his fuck-it attitude takes over as he steps on many toes–witnesses, government officials, his superiors, well Rebus’s barely held-in-check contempt slides into frustration and open hostility. An early question from Siobhan to Rebus echoes throughout the novel:

“Does the suit of armor come off when you get the gold watch?”

And after all that, I’ve just got one word to say: fantastic.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 26 readers
PUBLISHER: Little, Brown and Company; First US Edition edition (September 17, 2008)
REVIEWER: Guy Savage
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read  our reviews of other Ian Rankin novels:

Doors Open

The Naming of the Dead

Fleshmarket Alley

Resurrection Men

Witch Hunt (not part of this series)

Another Scottish author:

Val McDermid


Inspector Rebus Mysteries:

Short Story Collections:

  • A Good Hanging and Other Stories (1992) (Inspector Rebus stories )
  • Hebert In Motion and other stories (1997)
  • Death is not the End : a novella (Inspector Rebus) (1998)
  • Rebus: The Early Years (1999)
  • Rebus: The St. Leonard’s Years (2001)
  • Beggars Banquet: Stories (2002) (21 stories, 7 include Inspector Rebus)

Other Novels:

Originally written as Jack Harvey:

  • Witch Hunt (1993) *
  • Bleeding Hearts (1994) *
  • Blood Hunt (1995) *

*All three thrillers are published in The Jack Harvey Novels (2000)

October 5, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: 2009 Favorites, Sleuths Series, United Kingdom, y Award Winning Author

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.