Ian Rankin, The Naming of the Dead


Ian Rankin’s creation, Inspector John Rebus is a popular hero that transcends the stereotypical detective figure. Rankin uses the form to fill out a rounded character, a sense of place and the wider social reality. Set during the background of the Gleneagles 68 summit Rebus investigates the death of an MP. Classic Rebus with political intent. This edition contains an appreciation by the crime writer and radio book programme host Phil Rickman.

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Ian Rankin‘s Inspector John Rebus is probably the best known contemporary British detective series apart from Morse. The first Rebus novel, Knots and Crosses (1987) was originally conceived as a one-off, and was followed by two non-series book before the second installment arrived in 1991. In the early 90s Ian Rankin was little known and although his thrillers showed promise he lacked a market for them. This changed when he decided to work on a book twice the usual length with multiple story lines, a back story rich in Scottish heritage, with overlapping contemporary concerns. Black and Blue (1997) was critically acclaimed, received the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger and created the confidence and space for Rankin to develop and take the Rebus series to new levels; bringing significantly added zest to the growing book trade interest in a detective that was more about shadows and contradictions than solutions – thus noir came came of the shadows.

The combination of the seedy side of Edinburgh with the hand-drinking, tough but vulnerable policeman with humanity, and deft narratives paced like adventure stories was noted by television producers. Once the right leading man was found Rebus on the small screen came to rival other detective adaptations such as Wexford, Resnick and Morse.

Plotline from the Ian Rankin site: The Naming of the Dead (2006) promises a potent mix of action and politics, set against a backdrop of the most devastating week in recent British history. Set in July 2005 when the G8 leaders gathered in Scotland. Facing daily marches, demonstrations, and scuffles, the police are at full stretch. Detective Inspector John Rebus, however, has been sidelined, until the apparent suicide of an MP coincides with clues that a serial killer may be on the loose. The authorities are keen to hush up both, for fear of overshadowing a meeting of global importance – but Rebus has never been one to stick to the rules, and when his colleague Siobhan Clarke finds herself hunting down the identity of the riot cop who assaulted her mother, it looks as though Rebus and Clarke may be up pitted against both sides in the conflict.

The Scorpion Press edition was issued with an Appreciation by crime writer Phil Rickman. He says, “Rebus has evolved into a British icon: funny, belligerent, anarchic, subversive, inspired … and always a touch feral. The Keith Richards of Law Enforcement, with a vengeful splice of Van Morrison”. Our print run was 80 numbered and signed copies with 16 lettered for presentation purposes.

4.00 out of 5

2 reviews for Ian Rankin, The Naming of the Dead

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rating by Peter Gutteridge in “The Guardian” on May 27, 2012 :

    Peter Gutteridge in The Guardian
    Ian Rankin’s 16th Inspector Rebus novel is a big, sometimes elegiac, read set against the backdrop of one of the most tumultuous weeks in recent Scottish history: the G8 summit meeting in Edinburgh in July 2005. But this is no disguised political tract; instead, Rankin digs deeper into Rebus’s psyche and continues to explore themes of justice and retribution, impermanence, loss and regret.
    Rebus is the same truculent character he has always been and impending old age – his 60th birthday and consequent retirement – is preying on his mind.
    The Naming of The DeadT (Rankin took the title from a ceremony to honour those who had died in Iraq which took place in Edinburgh in 2005) has a nice initial premise. While every cop and his dog is pulling overtime to cope with the daily marches and demonstrations surrounding the summit, Rebus has been sidelined. Who wants him getting close to world leaders? But when a body is discovered in a spooky glade in Auchterarder (the location of the summit), Rebus, as the only person left in the office, is assigned the case and finds himself visiting the G8 after all.
    Almost immediately, he clashes with the English police commander in charge of G8 security. Before long, he has everybody’s backs up as he explores the possibility that an MP’s drop off Edinburgh Castle’s ramparts was murder, not suicide, and that a serial killer is preying on convicted rapists harvested from a vigilante website.
    Meanwhile, the nearest person Rebus has to a close friend – Siobhan Clarke – is also at odds with her superiors as she attempts to find the riot cop who clobbered her liberal mother during one of the many demonstrations. She’s also getting entangled with Rebus’s nemesis, thuggish crime boss Big Ger Cafferty, who is showing an unhealthy interest in her while getting in the way of Rebus’s investigations.
    That’s a lot of plot (nor is it all of it), but the strength of the novel lies in the way that Rankin weds it to his exploration of character: we get more insight into Clarke as she struggles with her relationship with her academic parents. Throughout, Rebus is brooding on his age and increasing isolation, thinking about the unexpected death of his brother and the way he has messed up with the rest of his family.
    If that sounds gloomy, it isn’t. There’s still the humour, the dodgy rock music and Rebus’s big-heartedness. And the detective inspector at odds with his superiors? Just the way he likes it”.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rating by Frances Fyfield, “The Independent” on May 27, 2012 :

    Frances Fyfield, The Independent
    “The scene is Edinburgh, the city that vies for position as central character in any novel featuring the now ageing Detective Inspector John Rebus. The place is as craggy, crabby and unpredictable as Rebus himself. Both try to shrug off the legacies of history, and both remain ungovernable. A tourist visiting Edinburgh is unlikely to notice the wrinkles beneath the elegance, just as anyone meeting Rebus in a convivial mood might consider him charming. The Rebus novels challenge the reader to find out more about the maverick, and a city built for resistance. Their formula is man and city at war with self and everyone else, both capable of being beguiling as well as rude.
    Then there’s the topical theme: in this case, an invasion. It is ironic, according to Rebus, that Edinburgh was chosen for the G8 summit in July 2005, because the presence of world leaders attracted every anarchist in the kingdom without anyone realising how many there were on the ground already – the local population.
    The chapters are named after the days of that long week when the centre of Edinburgh became a huge riot-control centre, with police and security drafted in to fend off the barbarians without and within. Rankin explores and exploits the weirdness of a city under siege, the colour, the expense, the unfairness, the opportunity provided for the underworld to flourish and the underdog to be punished in the name of protecting the privileges of a few world leaders.
    Needless to say, the Chief Constable has excluded Rebus from the sensitive policing required for the occasion. He is not invited to the Castle or Gleneagles, but it does not give away the plot to say he blags his way in there somehow. This is only part of the plot, since there are other lines to follow: the death of a politician who falls from the ramparts, the discovery of a serial killer/vigilante who is polishing off rapists and leaving clues in the mysterious “Clootie Well” where people leave clothing belonging to the dead, the dilemma of DS Siobhan Clarke, whose parents are innocent protesters, and the war between apparently virtuous Councillor Trent and Cafferty, Edinburgh’s answer to the Godfather.
    It all finally connects since Rebus is there, with his peculiar mix of fallibility, intuition, wisecracking insults and contempt, to muddle you through hectic events. So travel from the battlements of the Castle and the champagne-slugging politicos, endure the fate of the Kenyan diplomat who strolls into a lap-dancing bar, and rest assured of orchestrated culture shock. The bombing of London gets a mention, too. The Naming of the Dead is classic Rankin, and if you’re in love with the unchangeable Rebus, you’ll relish it.
    It’s page-turning, complicated crime, with some fine vignettes containing the only convincing pathos in the book. It feels as if written on the hoof by someone running round with a microphone, collecting soundbites of humour, fury and moral angst – like Dickens on speed, highly enjoyable, but ultimately breathless.
    In a recent interview Rankin said that this novel is “looking at personal responsibility; it’s asking does the individual make a difference in this huge political world?” He added that “it just happens to have a murder mystery there as well, so that readers don’t notice that big question”. Perhaps that explains why the emotional core of this book is so difficult to find. Rebus hid it in the Clootie Well, deliberately”.

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