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Starred Review. This abridgement of Rankin's 15th novel about Edinburgh police investigator John Rebus ends with an interview in which the author says he prefers to ignore abridgments. He should make an exception in this case. It's a particularly well-conceived adaptation that discards many of the book's more verbose passages and moves Rebus and his associate investigator Siobhan Clarke quickly into action. It also clarifies an overly complex plot that interweaves the possibly racist murder of an asylum-seeking Kurd; the disappearance of a young woman into the city's red light district; and the appearance of two skeletons uncovered during a pub renovation. Crucial series elements are not only retained but highlighted, such as Rebus's realization that, with his forced retirement approaching, his feeling for Clarke is taking a less platonic turn. Adding to the production's overall appeal is reader MacPherson, whose Scottish burr, though pronounced enough to make Sean Connery sound like a pommy Brit, complements Rankin's well-etched cast of Edinburgh denizens. In a display of vocal versatility, he easily segues from male to female, from members of the upper crust to bottom feeders, from guttural Kurds of varying ages to an Asian lawyer with a Far Eastern lilt. His bravura performance, added to the canny editing, results in satisfying proof that less can be more. Simultaneous release with the Little, Brown hardcover (Forecasts, Jan. 10). (Feb.)
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*Starred Review* Edinburgh copper John Rebus has spent his life mucking about among the city's lowlifes, so much so that he often feels more kinship with the crooks he chases than he does with the new generation of cookie-cutter organization men and women who inhabit the more respectable tiers of Scottish society. His hard-won assumptions about the world are transformed, however, by his latest case, forcing Rebus, the hardest of hardened cynics, to exclaim in horror, "What in Christ's name is happening here?" It starts with the murder of an "asylum-seeker"--an illegal immigrant hoping to be granted political asylum but forced to live in a virtual prison while the lumbering Scottish bureaucracy determines his fate. As Rebus begins to dig into the murder, he is confronted by the new face of racism, twenty-first-century style: a government, unwilling to deal with the immigration problem, outsourcing "detention housing" to American prison-for-profit companies; a citizenry determined "to alienate what they cannot understand"; and a criminal underworld quick to capitalize on opportunity by entering the booming business of "people smuggling." All of these forces come together in an Edinburgh public-housing project, where racial tensions are at the breaking point, and where the people-smuggling industry thrives. Rankin, who has spent years developing Rebus' hard-bitten character, now brilliantly portrays the man forced to confront his own sensitivity. This is a superb crime novel, a pivotal entry in a uniformly fascinating series, and a remarkably perceptive analysis of the contemporary immigration dilemma at its most achingly human level. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.