Exit Music - Ian Rankin
I started at this all backassward, reading the 18th and final book in Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus series, with only one other Rebus book under my belt. But despite the flimsiness of my familiarity with Detective Inspector John Rebus of the Edinburgh police department, I was immediately drawn into the troubled world of this often rebellious detective.
Merely days away from a decidedly unwelcome retirement, Rebus is thrown back into active police work by the discovery of the badly beaten body of a famed Russian poet, a dissident poet highly critical of the Russian establishment. Simultaneously, a delegation of Russian businessmen are being wooed by the top echelon of Scottish parliament and the Scottish national bank, keen to trade local interests for bags full of rubles. The pressure is on to close this case quickly and quietly.
And then a business associate of the poet is also brutally murdered.
John Rebus is a compelling character. Definitely not a team player, and evidently quite flawed, he has a troubled relationship with his job and with the lines of authority within the police department. Retirement is not going to sit well with DI Rebus, who has sacrificed his marriage and his personal relationships for the job to the point where, aside from his whiskey bottle and his stereo at the end of the day, it is the only thing that defines him.
I found myself quite interested also in the character of Rebus' presumed successor, Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke, and concerned for the similar path which she seems set to follow. Equally galvanized by police work, she seems to exhibit much of the same professional drive as Rebus, and I would be interested to see how she fares years down the road, in what state she allows her personal life to be usurped by the demands of the profession.
This is a mystery that is satisfactorily peppered with leads which may or may not be red herrings, and that draws on situations gleaned from the news headlines of the day, which bring a sense of historical placement to the fictional events. The real-life incident of the polonium poisoning of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko acts as a running plot point in Exit Music. It's an incident that provides a backdrop to the underlying concerns of Russian-British diplomacy in the novel, and adds a degree of historical significance and realism to the novel's story line.
The highly controversial Scottish parliament building, renowned for the criticism it has elicited for its unusual architecture, also plays a role in the novel. It would be next to impossible to set a novel in Edinburgh, particularly a novel in which members of Scottish parliament are placed under scrutiny, without making mention of the building meant to be representative of a nation but which has actually turned out to be a highly divisive element. It makes rather a good statement for the hidden interests and the power struggles at play within Exit Music.
I enjoyed this book enough to make me want to go back and read some of the earlier DI Rebus novels, to get a better feel for this flawed and troubled, yet ultimately likable protagonist.