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A Break From The Day Job
on 29 September 2008
You're a celebrated crime author and you've just retired your most famous character - DI John Rebus, as if you didn't know - so what do you do next? Answer, you write an old-fashioned heist caper.
You'll have read the plot synopsis so I'll not summarise it again, I'll simply confine myself to making a few general points about the book:
First of all, this originally ran as a serial in the same publication that first printed Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch-lite `The Overlook' before it was published as a novel last year. I don't know if Ian has padded out `Doors Open' prior to publication, but it doesn't read like a novella stretched beyond its natural length.
I found `Doors Open' to be a satisfying read, even if it doesn't come close to approaching the quality of the best of the Rebus novels. For anyone else it would be decent little book, but Rankin has set his own standards so high, that you're perhaps looking for a bit more. I personally suspect that he wrote this as a bit of light relief after creating the increasingly complex plots of the `you know who' series for the past twenty years. That and the large wad of cash he was apparently paid for writing it.
His policeman here, DI Ransome could not be less like John Rebus if he tried. For a start, he doesn't rush bull-headed into things with no care for insulting his betters - or anyone, else for that matter. Ransome has a facility for diplomacy when among his peers (his counterpart from another station is the one officially investigating the art theft) and has subtle plans for his own advancement. He's no less effective than Rebus, but like I say, his methods are totally different. However, in local Edinburgh gangster Chib Calloway he's created a baddie cut from the same cloth, or perhaps that should be, hewn from the same block of granite, as 'Big Ger' Cafferty from the Rebus novels.
There are a few times in this novel where Rankin has his characters spit things out... as in "`Blah, blah, blah', he spat". This despite the fact that the sentences often contain no sibilants. This is a bit lazy, and proves to me that Ian himself regards this as no more than a frippery; a break from the real day job. Having said that, it's still a professional effort and contains a good number of decent twists.
In summary, this is an effective and efficient little thriller. It's Ian Rankin writing in a much lighter vein - but it's no less enjoyable for that. If I'm going to be picky, there are writers around like Christopher Brookmyre who, frankly, do this kind of thing much better. Still it's a nice enough stab at something different, and it's never less than entertaining. But it isn't major league Rankin and anyone approaching it with that expectation is going to be disappointed.