DI John Rebus is a long established character of Ian Rankin’s and The Naming Of The Dead is his 16th Rebus novel.
The novel cleverly interfaces with the real-life events of the G8 meetings held at Gleneagles in Scotland a few years ago, and imagines Rebus and his colleague Siobhan Clarke chasing down a murderer with Edinburgh inconveniently in lock-down due to G8 security.
The Naming Of The Dead is possibly one of the busiest novels I’ve read in recent memory. Aside from an ongoing criminal investigation hampered by the G8 and some overzealous security officials, you’ve got a death in Rebus’ family, Siobhan’s hippy parents show up for the protest marches, local gangsters poking their noses into investigations and shady local councillors too.
If I’m being generous, all this noise makes for an interesting and fast paced book, and it creates enough distraction to mask the real killer. On the other hand, toward the end I found myself utterly confused as to how the various parts of the plot came together and the final resolution was disappointing as a result.
However, Rankin’s writing style was impressive throughout. A newcomer to the Rebus novels, I found myself interested in the Detective’s back story, but not alienated. Rankin manages to make Rebus accessible to readers, even if they’re not familiar with the previous novels in the series.
The characters are all multi-faceted, and I especially liked how the lines between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ were blurred by Siobhan’s involvement with Cafferty – the local gangster. You’ve also got the subscribers of the BeastWatch site – victims and families of victims who’ve put together a site, but which inadvertently helps the killer pick former violent criminals to kill.
Rebus and Siobhan’s relationship is a mystery, and shown somewhat in her reluctance to introduce him to her parents who are roughly the same age as him. In fact, you come away wanting to know more about Rebus – his background, what drives him, what has led him to be alone.
In summary, The Naming Of The Dead has the potential to lose you down innumerable blind alleys and twists and turns of the plot as confusing as Edinburgh’s back streets seem to be. However, the quality of the writing and the characters claw back much credibility for the story in the end.