Review: The Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin

14 August 2007

John Rebus is another Chandlerian hero, another flawed but true pursuer of justice, another cynical idealist. In The Naming of the Dead, Ian Rankin gives us Rebus at his most reflective and introspective as he examines his motives and beliefs.

The book is set in July 2005, with the G8 taking place at Gleneagles, and the 7/7 bombing in London. The place is full of various security experts, Scotland is awash with protesters of all ages, and Rebus is facing his traditional foes – the police hierarchy, Big Ger Cafferty, and his own relationships. There are recurring themes of death and guilt, of power and corruption, of deception and disguise. There are bodies, a serial killer is on the loose; a politician falls to his death, George Bush falls of his mountain bike.

The boundary between good and evil also becomes blurred – Siobhan Clarke, Rebus’ sidekick, succumbs to the temptations offered by Cafferty; Rebus, also, sups with this particular devil. It is this, perhaps, that suggests just a hint of seriesitis – the hero’s evil protagonist starts to loom larger, and is not a totally unsympathetic figure; the plot mechanisms are complex and many. But it’s still great.

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