The Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin: A review

The "naming of the dead" is a ritual often performed after some tragedy in which people have been killed. The names of the dead are read out in public ceremony as a way of remembering their lives. Inspector John Rebus, Ian Rankin's creation, feels that that is what he does in his murder investigations - he names the dead, excavates their lives, and makes sure they are not forgotten.

The Naming of the Dead is the penultimate tale in Inspector Rebus' saga. Soon he will be forced to retire and give up the job which is the only life he has. It won't be a minute too soon for his superiors at Lothian and Borders Police.

In July 2005, Edinburgh was a buzz of activity as it readied itself for the G8 conference to be held there. The most powerful people in the world would be meeting to decide the fate of much of the world for the foreseeable future. Police officers from all over the country had been commandeered to provide security for the event. They came from as far away as London to make sure that nothing went wrong.

It seemed that the only nonessential policeman, the only one whose presence was not required to keep the peace around the bigwigs, was John Rebus. Once again his superiors appeared to be sending him a message: You're not needed. You're not wanted. Pack it in.

Of course, Rebus has a tin ear when it comes to such messages. He just doesn't hear them and he goes on his way, doing his job just the way he has always done it. His way.

Much as his superiors do not want him involved, when one of the delegates to the G8 falls to his death, Rebus is the only officer left at the station to take the call and thus he becomes involved in investigating a high profile death, the very thing his boss hoped to avoid.

Meanwhile, his colleague Siobhan Clarke is investigating the death of a rapist which means that soon Rebus is involved in that investigation as well. Then Clarke's parents, aging hippies, come to Edinburgh to participate in demonstrations in regard to the G8 and, in the melee, her mother is assaulted, possibly by a policeman. Siobhan is determined to find the culprit and bring him to justice.

All of these disparate stories intertwine and interconnect as they have a way of doing in a Rankin tale, and the conclusions to the stories were not quite what I had expected. Although I've read all the Rebus stories, in order, through this one, Rankin still has the capacity to surprise me.

What will happen to Rebus when he is finally forced to leave his job, the job for which he has sacrificed all of his personal life? Who will "name" him when he loses the only life he has? It will be interesting to see how Rankin handles this. Perhaps he will surprise me once again.


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