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James Gale proves an excellent choice to narrate this latest entry to the long-running Inspector Rebus series. It's 2005 and Rebus is mourning the unexpected death of his brother. It is a death that will cause a lot of introspective musings for the detective as he sees his retirement edging over the horizon. But soon Rebus and his partner are after a possible serial killer who is doing in former sex offenders. Add to that the apparent suicide of an MP and the horror of the London subway bombings, and you have another first-rate Scottish mystery, that is only enhanced by Gale's performance. Gale's gruff, gravelly delivery brings just the right amount of world weariness to his characterization of Rebus. With the rich array of accents at his disposal, Gale is equally effective in his portrayal of Rankin's supporting characters, especially the smug amoral crime boss Cafferty, who comes across as a smirking, self-satisfied alley cat with fresh bird feathers in his whiskers.
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Rankin's U.S. publishers have been cashing in on the author's celebrity lately by reissuing his early work, originally published in the UK under a pseudonym, but now Rankin fans can get back to the really good stuff: a new John Rebus novel. Coming off what is arguably the best Rebus of all, Fleshmarket Alley (2005), Rankin faces a stern challenge, and while the new offering isn't quite among the series' elite, it's still a damn good book. It's July 2005, and Bush, Blair, and other international leaders are coming to Scotland for the G8 conference to be held outside Edinburgh. Anything but a company man, Detective Inspector Rebus finds himself relegated to the sidelines until he takes a call that lands him smack where he's not supposed to be: butting heads with conference organizers in an attempt to make sense of the apparent suicide of an attendee at a preconference dinner. The plot mushrooms out from there, of course, encompassing an ongoing serial-killer investigation and personal crises in the lives of both Rebus and his partner and protege, Siobhan Clarke. The focus on international events (including the London subway bombing) adds thematic heft to the novel but takes away a bit from the always-fascinating exploration of Rebus' melancholic heart of darkness. Still, Rankin continues to juggle his plot strains superbly and to add depth to the characterization of Clarke, whose multidimensionality nearly equals that of Rebus himself. Required reading for crime-fiction followers. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.