I can hear Ian Rankin’s wise Detective Inspector John Rebus saying, “Next to a dram of Scotland’s finest single malt whisky, a deadline is a police officer’s best friend.” For, in Exit Music, a nasty murder has occurred on his watch and the story is Rebus’s attempting to solve this final case before he is forced into retirement. With just ten days separating him from handing in his warrant card and pistol, Rebus will not retire; he will not drop the murder case; he will not go gently into that dark night of Nothing to Do.
Rankin is a consummate writer; how could he not be after writing over twenty Rebus crime thrillers ? (This one published in 2007; there have been four more since for a total to date of 21.) His eye for character, detail, and subtle clues (I never figured the murderer to be who he really was, not once, nope) and the mysterious city of Edinburgh is enough to sweep up any reader of this genre. One of the most fun things about reading a Scottish writer like Rankin is finding their language’s gems of pronunciation and description, like ‘bacon butty’ and ‘shag’ and ‘a potted biography’ or ‘patter’ and of course ‘the loo’ to name but a few. Wish I’d highlighted them, but I was reading a friend’s copy.
Where most American mystery and police procedural novelists apparently find it necessary to crank up the heinousness of their criminals, book after book (please spare me any and all recollection of The Silence of the Lambs), Rankin writes of people, both good and bad, who behave like proper Great Britainers (although Rankin makes it clear the Scots would prefer their independence). I love it that there are no scenes of cops grasping their .357 Magnums with both hands, peering around corners in pursuit of their prey. As Rankin demonstrates so well, even crime can be conducted by both parties with a certain quality of mercy and understanding for human foibles.
If you like Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels, you’ll like this one. If you like Lisa Gardner’s D.D. Warren novels, you’ll like this one, too, particularly for Siobhan Clarke, Sergeant Detective, Rebus’ partner. This was my first Ian Rankin Rebus mystery, but it won’t be my last.