The latest novel in Ian Rankin's John Rebus detective series, focusing on a cold case of a glamorous young woman murdered at a luxurious hotel on the same night a famous rock star and his entourage where also staying there.
Rankin has spent nearly three decades in the company of Rebus, about 10 years longer than Chandler with Marlowe, and this relationship shows no sign of medical emergency. Following novels establishing the characters of Clarke and Fox alongside Rebus and his archenemy, Big Ger, the more recent cast members now feel as credible as Rebus himself and the sparks of their interaction create an atmosphere as rich as the plot, boding well for the future. Rankin neatly compares the rock star excesses of the 70s to the outrages of today’s financial larcenists, while Rebus gets to kick serious bankster arse, his rage finely honed by the absence of cigarettes. Though it moves at pace, what makes this tale so deeply satisfying is that its protagonists have had time and space to develop. Rebus’s input serves to highlight the benefits of age, experience and keeping a sense of community.
Rankin is an expert at manipulating multiple plots. Here they involve touchy gang chieftains itching for war, equally quarrelsome police officials squabbling over jurisdiction and one especially 'ruthless, rapacious, hands-on, determined' banker trafficking in fishy offshore shell companies ... Along with his plotting prowess, Rankin has cultivated a fluid style that accommodates mordant cop talk, coarse gangster lingo and the occasional honest expression of compassion. So there’s a certain rough charm to the banter between Rebus and his well-drawn colleagues.
Rankin makes a less-than-convincing case in this disappointing novel. I found nothing in these pages more suspenseful than whether Rebus, who may have cancer, would survive it ... The book has its dramatic moments. One chapter begins with a very respectable citizen inexplicably running naked down the street as passersby snap photos. And a vengeful man armed with a huge sword — a veritable scimitar — threatens to chop off a rival’s head as a warning to others. Rebus even gains a confession in the woman’s long-ago murder. But the novel simply has too many characters and too much going on. I despaired of keeping things straight — and I was taking notes. Rankin has done better in the past and no doubt he’ll do better in the future. Let’s hope.