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Book Review: Exit Music

Exit MusicBy Ian Rankin
Little, Brown and Company ©2007 | Hardback 421pgs

John Rebus takes his final bow as a Detective Inspector for the Edinburgh Police in Exit Music, Rankin’s 17th novel in the series. Ten days before he’s forced into mandatory retirement at age 60, Rebus and his partner Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke are called to the scene of a murder, apparently a mugging gone wrong. When the victim’s identity is revealed as Alexander Todorov, a dissident Russian poet exiled from his homeland, Rebus becomes a lot more interested.

Using his wry wit and unparalleled ability to annoy his co-workers and superiors into submission, he convinces Clarke that there is more to this murder than a mugging gone too far. The brass at Gayfield Square police station are skeptical, but give them leeway to dig deeper into the case. Soon Rebus uncovers a link between the poet Todorov, and a shady Russian Industrialist who has recently been currying favor with the Edinburgh banking elite and members of Scottish Parliament. Never one to pass up an opportunity to poke a finger in the eye of the pampered and privileged, Rebus thinks he’s hot on the trail of a moneyed class conspiracy when a second victim turns up dead.

Things become more complicated when an old enemy enters the frame: Morris “Big Ger” Cafferty. Notorious organized crime boss, and Rebus’ nemesis for nearly two decades, Cafferty also had dealings with Todorov on the night of his death. Rebus is convinced that the mobster played some part in the murder. During one verbal joust Rebus states, “…the only words I can find to rhyme with ‘Cafferty’ are ‘evil’ and ‘bastard.’” With retirement fast approaching, this case will be his last chance to put the mob boss away for good.

When progress on the case stalls and people in power start squawking about Rebus’ insolence, arrogance and general surliness, he finds himself on yet another suspension two days before retirement. Things get worse when Cafferty is found brutally beaten shortly after his final confrontation with Rebus. Evidence that could implicate him in the assault is discovered and Rebus ends up dragged into the interrogation room by his soon to be former colleagues. But without enough hard proof to arrest him, he’s soon back on the street, working with Clarke on the sly to solve the case.

In the end, the reason for the poet’s murder is much more pedestrian than the police have theorized. Rebus also finds that he has another enemy much closer to home, one very different from “Big Ger” Cafferty. As the mobster struggles on life support and the Detective is stripped of his badge, the city of Edinburgh is forever changed. With his life’s work taken away and few hobbies except, “ciggies and booze and a little night music,” Rebus’ future is a new mystery to be solved.

Rankin has not said definitively that this is the last book in the Rebus series. There was a passing reference to a Serious Crime Review Unit in which retired detectives investigate cold cases, so maybe this will be Rebus’ next incarnation. Hopefully this book does not mark the end of John Rebus, though if the series does end here, readers have enjoyed an intense and entertaining ride with the Detective Inspector. With Rebus’ maverick approach to policing, acerbic one-liners and a cast of unique characters from all strata of Scottish society, each book in the series stands on its own. A pint should be raised in Rankin’s honor (at the Oxford Bar, of course) for creating such interesting and enduring characters. Slàinte!

If you liked this title, you might also like: Nemesis by Jo Nesbo

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