While we were touring around over the last couple of weeks, I dropped into a few secondhand bookshops (and one or two new book shops, as well). In Picton, if I remember correctly, I found a very good secondhand bookshop and a proprietor happy to talk at length if I'd so desired. He had a copy of Ian Rankin's Exit Music, originally intended to the the last in the Rebus series. We had this on CD, but I'd never listened to it, so I got the trade paperback he had in stock.
Having just read the most recent Rebus book, Standing in Another Man's Grave, in which Rebus, although officially retired, is in no way devoid of his usual energy and insight, it was a bit odd to go back a step and see him preparing for imminent retirement. Like the latest book, hinges on a huge red herring, though in saying that, the red herring here is actually a vital part of how the book works itself out, rather more so than in the most recent story.
In the first chapter the body of a Russian poet is found on the street in Edinburgh, and everyone who appears in the story - and I mean everyone - is in some way involved with this man, from politicians to small time crooks, from drug addicts to pushers, from academics to bankers. Not a soul is outside the ever-widening circle of people who are affected. It's so well written it would easily have made a fitting climax to the Rebus series, and Rebus himself is in fine form - ageing but not old; sarcastic but witty, anti-authoritarian yet endeavouring to train the younger police officers to respect the right channels. He knows from his own career how difficult it is to go against the flow.
There's a lot of warmth in this book; more than in some of the Rebus stories. There's minimal violence - apart from the murder(s) obviously - though the arch villain Big Ger Cafferty comes a bit of a cropper, much to Rebus' annoyance (!) It's the sort of cropper that could see Cafferty die before he pays his dues. Rebus would much prefer that he's put behind bars legitimately.
Perhaps, having read the two most recent Rebus titles back to front, I should continue in the same vein, and read through the series again, in reverse!