four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
37-Nov-Dec-2008
By: 
Ian Rankin
user_rating: 
0
Award Year: 
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A-Exit MusicIn the 17th—and reputedly final—novel to feature the Edinburgh detective (after The Naming of the Dead, 4 of 5 Stars Selection Mar/Apr 2007), John Rebus tries to solve what just might be his last case.

The Story: Just ten days before Detective Inspector John Rebus is set to retire, the murder of Alexander Todorov, a Russian expatriate poet who was bludgeoned to death, ropes him back in. Soon, Detective Sergeant Siobhan Clarke and Rebus—though he is feeling his age, becoming more introspective, and playing second fiddle to the investigation—are hot on the trail of a group of Russian businessmen, Scottish bank executives, politicians, and Rebus’s old adversary, crime boss Big Ger Cafferty, who were present in the same hotel bar the night of the murder. Then, a second man related to Todorov is murdered. And Rebus has only a few days to find the perpetrators.
Little, Brown. 432 pages. $24.99. ISBN: 0316057584

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"[N]either age nor impending leisure has mellowed Rebus, who’s as prickly as ever as he chases down clues with various bankers, politicians, mobsters, and academics. After 17 books, I’ve grown awfully fond of the old grouch; like the rest of his fans, I’m going to miss him terribly." Tina Jordan

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The murder inquiry weaves and wanders at its own gait, stopping to consider such matters as the prospect of Scottish independence and the parallels between Scottish and Russian history, until Mr. Rankin suddenly picks up the pace. … Elegiac as it is Exit Music sustains the series’s cranky pleasures." Janet Maslin

New Yorker 4 of 5 Stars
"Rebus is as gruffly mischievous as ever, and the novel ends in a cliffhanger scene with his arch-enemy that will have readers gasping into the blank space that follows."

South FL Sun-Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"Exit Music is the perfect send-off for the complicated Rebus who has never been in harmony with himself or his work. … In Exit Music, the push for an independent Scotland pushes the labyrinthine plot that gives an insider’s rich look at the country." Oline H. Cogdill

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"In a ghoulish running gag, the author trots out one cliché after another—being put out to pasture, tossed on the scrap heap, walked into the sunset—to remind Rebus of the indignity of his fate. … Rebus’s working days may be numbered, but they’re densely packed with incident and intrigue in a complicated case that shrewdly revisits some of the big issues he has faced over his career." Marilyn Stasio

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3 of 5 Stars
"[Rankin] throws a few digs at modern, independently thinking Scotland by including a few rapacious Russian capitalists in bed with shady Scottish bankers and politicians, all of whom are insulted by Rebus as he heads out the door. Stir in some crude pornographers, wastrel youths and unhappy families and you’ve got a Scotch blend that leaves a sour aftertaste." Bob Hoover

Critical Summary

This nostalgic farewell for the aging, rebellious, and popular Rebus raised an all-consuming question for critics: is this really the end to the beloved detective, or will he return? The cliffhanger ending, as well as the general belief that Rankin would never give up his adored character, suggests that Rebus could make a comeback. "Exit Music does leave the door open for more Rebus stories as well as a series featuring Siobhan, who has become more of a presence in each novel," notes the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Either way, the novel, framed by the fight for an independent Scotland and another labyrinthine case, is a fitting end to Rebus’s career. A few clichés are unavoidable for this prolific author, and a slow start bothered some critics. Still, most agree with the New Yorker: "Rankin’s work is crime fiction at its most consuming, cerebral best."