Top critical review
Time for Rebus to take that gold carriage clock
on 20 February 2007
The seventeenth novel in the Rebus series with apparently only one more to go before our likeable D.I hands the baton over to his much younger boss, DS Siobhan Clarke. If there's anything that this latest episode made me realise, it's that quite a lot happened during the month of July 2005. Apart from the G8 meeting in Edinburgh, around which this tale is largely entwined, we had the terrorist bombings in London and the announcement that the 2012 Olympics would be held there too; both get brief mentions in Ian Rankin's narrative. Not only that but there was the attempted terrorist attack just two weeks after the first, although thankfully the second one failed. If you strip away all of these front-page headlines you are left with a story that is unlikely to set your heart pounding, and if it wasn't for the familiarity and cynical humour of good old John Rebus it would be a largely forgettable one too.
For me, the crimes committed were barely worthy of a story but it's the way in which Rebus attempts to solve them that makes it a worthy read. I have only read three in this lengthy series (the most recent ones) and already I feel that I have developed an understanding for what makes Rebus tick and why he is absolutely the heart and soul of the franchise. Shiv Clarke, however, doesn't strike me as having half the personality that Rebus has and I wonder if Rankin would be wise to try to develop a series - as I understand he might - with Shiv carrying it alone. For the time being, though, Rebus as a character is as strong as ever from a reader's perspective and existing fans will probably be more than happy with this latest tale. I suspect that it might help if the reader knows the full history behind local gangster `Big Ger' Cafferty, in my case I do not and this may have diluted the story's spice a little. He presumably appeared in at least one earlier Rebus novel and the newest one might make for a more pleasurable read with this knowledge on board.
A pleasant and easy read, then, strong on character development but lacking a cutting edge in the story itself.