Rankin, Ian. The Naming of the Dead.

NY: Little, Brown, 2006.

This episode in the career of Edinburgh police detective John Rebus has the most complex plot yet, and it’s set against both the G-8 summit in Scotland in 2005 and the London terrorist bombings on July 7th of that year. Rebus is always a trial to his superiors and he seems to be the only cop in Britain whose presence isn’t wanted in Edinburgh to provide security for all the arriving heads of state and to control the protests.

He’s told to look after things at the office — where he no longer even has his own desk, another message from his superiors, who only wish he’d take his pension and go — but you know he’s not going to be satisfied with that. Even though he’s just come from his younger brother’s funeral. In fact, when a young government trade minister sails, screaming, off the parapet of Edinburgh Castle onto the rocks below in the midst of a bigwig dinner, Rebus is on the case immediately, whether he’s supposed to be or not.

Meanwhile, DS Siobhan Clarke’s parents, retired English academics but still active lefties, have come up to Scotland to take part in the demonstrations, which is giving their daughter fits. Clarke has been both Rebus’s protégé and his closest friend for some time, and much of him has rubbed off on her — not necessarily a good thing, as he keeps telling her. But she’s pretty tough, as she demonstrates when she comes up against some of the demonstrators. There’s also an apparent serial killer to deal with who is picking off convicted sex offenders released from prison. The cops aren’t working too hard on that case (no surprise), and the families of the dead men’s original victims aren’t interested in helping, either, but to Rebus and Clarke, a murder is a murder.

And then there’s Councilor Tench, an ex-street preacher turned grass-roots politician, who is trying (so he says) to reform Edinburgh. This includes attempting to take over control of the local underworld from Big Ger Cafferty, who has been Rebus’s nemesis for many years. The interwoven narratives are complex but riveting and it’s worth the effort to pay attention. Rankin’s characterizations, even of one-off supporting players, is also first-rate. There’s a reason he’s by far the most popular crime novelist in Britain.


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