DOORS OPEN by Ian Rankin

Book Quote:

“Seems to me,” he eventually offered, “we’re all up to something, Mike—even you. That means there’s going to be winners and losers. Want to take a bet which side I’ll be on?”

Book Review:

Review by Guy Savage (JAN 29, 2010)

The title of Ian Rankin’s latest stand-alone crime thriller is Doors Open, and this title has both literal and figurative meanings. Figuratively the title refers to the “open doors” of opportunities and decisions. “Open doors” are those moments when we glimpse the possibilities of choice and a different sort of future, and during those moments we decide whether or not to pass through that open door, or just walk away….

The idea of missed opportunities and different futures certainly rankles the “three musketeers”–a nickname given to three male friends by Laura Stanton, an attractive Edinburgh art dealer. The three men, who hang out at art auctions together, at first glance seem to make unlikely friends. There’s Robert Gissing, a professor on the verge of retirement, middle-aged bank executive Allan Cruickshank who’s going through an expensive divorce, and millionaire Mike Mackenzie. Of the three men, only Mackenzie can afford to buy paintings at auctions, but the painting he really wants isn’t for sale.

One day, Gissing suggests a plan; as a respected art critic, with access to galleries and their vaults, Gissing proposes a bold plan to rob a vault that stores priceless overstock–the paintings Edinburgh galleries don’t display due to space considerations. Gissing, who’s obviously given this a great deal of thought, proposes to raid the overstock vaults of the National Galleries during Doors Open day–a period when security is somewhat relaxed as the public descends for the free-admission access to Edinburgh landmarks that either normally charge for entrance or are usually closed to the public.

While Gissing’s plan is well-thought through, so much can potentially go wrong, and at first while the more cautious Cruickshank is wary of the idea, Mackenzie leaps at the chance to steal the painting he covets. Rankin builds a credible story by depicting characters who see the heist as an opportunity to correct their lives. Gissing, given to rants about those hoarders and collectors who buy art just to hide it away in their private collections, hypocritically seeks to do the very same thing; Cruickshank has reached a dead-end in his personal life and in his career, and he’s secretly thrilled to think he could steal two paintings that even his bank cannot afford to buy, and Mackenzie, who becomes a driving force in the heist, begins to have delusions of himself as a tough guy.

Rankin’s psychological insights into the minds of his characters add a great deal to this crime tale, and these insights certainly go a long way towards explaining why someone like Mackenzie–a man who can afford to buy almost everything he wants–would risk getting his hands dirty. Mackenzie is well-matched with his polar opposite, Cruickshank, and it’s clear that while the bank executive wouldn’t go through that “open door” if the decision is left up to him, he’s dragged along into this mess by his personal failures, Gissing’s confidence and also deeply hidden envy of the much wealthier Mackenzie.

Mackenzie is the main character here. Fate causes him to run into an old schoolmate, Chib Calloway, an Edinburgh crime boss whose power is waning. Calloway sees the heist as a segue into greater criminal opportunities, and some of the novel’s best scenes concern Mackenzie impressing Cruickshank with this seemingly practiced criminal actions, while conversely Calloway understands that Mackenzie is, essentially, an amateur.

Scottish author Ian Rankin is probably best known for his Rebus novels, and 2009 brought the publication of Exit Music–a novel that announced the end of Rebus’s less-than-stellar career. Actually I have hopes that Rebus will return in retirement, but it’s good to read Rankin’s stand-alone thriller. While we don’t have time to get fond of the characters in this heist tale, Rankin doesn’t spend all the pages on the chills and thrills of plotting a robbery. He also examines questions of boredom, ownership, and how the desire to impress others has an addictive, toxic lure.

AMAZON READER RATING: we don’t agree with their rating
PUBLISHER: Reagan Arthur Books; 1 edition (January 15, 2010)
REVIEWER: Guy Savage
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:Exit Music
The Naming of the Dead

Fleshmarket Alley

Resurrection Men

Witch Hunt (not part of this series)


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)

January 30, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Thriller/Spy/Caper, United Kingdom

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