The Curing of a Bibliomaniac Part 18: Exit Music (Ian Rankin, 2007)

Books left: 8. Weeks left: 12
027Part 18 serves as a prime example of why I have resorted to a project like this to pull my book buying, reading and keeping habits into line.

I began Ian Rankin’s series of novels about Scottish detective John Rebus years ago and loved them so much I painstakingly collected a matching set, with the exception of one rogue unmatching cover. When I heard that Rankin would be retiring Rebus and along with him the series I collected the last book, Exit Music, in trade paperback, not wanting to wait until it came out in small format.

But then I got more books… and more… and more… and never ended up reading Rebus’ last hurrah.

With all this in mind I thought it was an obvious candidate for the project. I would read that final part of the series, acknowledge that my love affair with John Rebus had reached a fitting end, then I would consign the complete collection over to the secondhand bookshop for a new reader to fall upon gleefully.

If you love something, let it go.

If you love something, let it go.

So, I read and loved Exit Music. I thought it a perfect end to a series. I took the whole pile to the bookshop.

Here, the bookseller informed me that Rankin had restarted the series a few years back. Rebus was Back. With a dawning sense of something sitting uneasily between delight and horror, I betook myself to the shelves and found the New Series.

Even its cover taunted with me, with its REBUS IS BACK tagline emblazoned upon it.

Get this: Rebus stayed retired, bugger him, for five years, then started working on cold cases.

Exit Music was published in 2007 and soon afterwards I was no longer seeing the new fiction releases, having begun work in a nonfiction bookstore. By the time Rankin published Standing in Another Man’s Grave in 2012 I was working in journalism. He has now published a second title in the new series, Saints of the Shadow Bible, 2013.

Joke’s on me.

The harsh lesson: if you buy a book you don’t have time to read and hang on to it for eight years, you run the risk of the author actually being able to retire a bestselling series, get bored, re-launch the series and put out another two books, putting you hopelessly behind again.

But now I know I have really begun to take the lesson to heart, because I put those new titles back on the shelf and Walked Away from it, not to mention from the rest of the collection.

I don’t have the time right now, especially given this project is yet to run its course.

Now for a brief note on Exit Music, which I waited, as I said, eight years to read.

Hooray! It’s one of those stories in which a crusty old copper has only ten days to go until he retires. Obviously, a big nasty murder lands in his lap. In a surprising twist, old authority-hating Rebus finally sasses a boss so badly that the boss, incensed, suspends him for the remainder of his final days in the job. Again obviously (and I mean obviously in the best kind of way) Rebus ignores that directive as he has only days left and one last chance to put his nemesis, a crime boss who has eluded capture for Rebus’ entire career, away for good.

It’s set in real time, just about, with the book divided into a chapter for each day plus a one-day epilogue, which makes for a ripper of a police procedural and a detailed and political portrait of the seedy Edinburgh underbelly Rankin has always evoked so sharply.

Had it BEEN a swan song, I say bitterly, it would have been a damned good one – it’s full of fuss, blood and mess, to borrow a phrase from Rebus himself, and its bittersweet conclusion gave me a little shock of goosebumps.

Mr Rankin, you have my undying respect. Argh, go on, write another one.

Keep or kill? Already gone, my friends.

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