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When the BBC asked us if we had a question for Ian Rankin on his World Book Club appearance it seemed natural to inquire as to whether he understood his hero, John Rebus, to be kind of the last Calvinist standing in Scotland, trying to hold back the tide of evil almost single-handedly. Mr. Rankin demurred from this view and more or less joked away the notion. So it was with no little amusement that I read the Resurrection Men installment in the series. Exploiting Rebus's notorious reputation on the force, his superiors get him to stage a station house incident that enables them to send him on a retraining course with several officers they fear are bent. Of course, the key to this strategy is that the wrongdoers are, once again, so similar in so many ways to Rebus himself. The title of the book comes from the course, which supposedly offers the men who take it a chance at resurrecting their careers and reputations. But in this instance, Rebus quite explicitly makes himself into a low-rent savior, the medium through which his targets can confess their sins and save their souls, since confession would mark their end as policemen.

Interestingly, while Rebus imagines he can redeem those he is pursuing, he doubts that he can likewise be saved. Here's a bit following a meeting with the frightening criminal Gerald Cafferty, whose help he has received in the past:
I've made a pact with the devil, he thought as his hands gripped the edge of the breakfast table. Resurrection would come only to those who deserved it; Rebus knew he was not among them. He could find a church and pray all he liked, or offer up a confession to Strathern. Neither would make a jot of difference. This was how the jobs got done: with a tainted conscience, guilty deals, and complicity. With grubby motives and a spirit grown corrupt. His steps were so shallow as he walked towards the door, he could have been wearing shackles.
And his partner, Siobhan Clarke, who teeters on the edge of becoming just like him, has an insight into the price he's paying:
She said good-bye to Rebus on the steps of the police station, watched him disappear inside. She'd wanted to say something: take care, maybe, or watch yourself, but the words hadn't come out. He'd nodded anyway, reading her eyes with a smile. The problem wasn't that he thought himself indestructible--quite the opposite. She worried that he relished the idea of his own fallibility. He was only human, and if proving it meant enduring pain and defeat, he would welcome both. Did that mean he had a martyr complex?
We need not answer that last in order to recognize that Mr. Rankin has made him a martyr at any rate. For who else proved His humanity by enduring pain and defeat and is the vehicle of our Resurrection?


(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A)

  

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Ian Rankin (4 books reviewed)
Mystery
Ian Rankin Links:

    -Ian Rankin Web Site (Minotaur Books)
    -PROFILE: Sympathy for the devil: Please allow us to introduce Ian Rankin, a man of wealth and taste. HeÕs been around for years writing about Inspector Rebus, but now the series is coming to an end, and BritainÕs most successful crime novelist must decide what to do next. A good time, then, for Peter Ross to take a magnifying glass to the fascinating life and career of a very Scottish literary star (Peter Ross, 02 May 2004, Sunday Herald)
    -ESSAY: Soft-boiled: Detectives aren't what they used to be (Stephen Budiansky, The Atlantic)
    -INTERVIEW :  with Ian Rankin  (Book Browse)
    -INTERVIEW: Ian Rankin Exile on Princes Street:  Inspector Rebus & I (Tangled Web)
    -INTERVIEW: Ian Rankin  Starless & Bible Black:   The Serial Killer Who Refuses to Die
    -The BookEnds Interview: IAN RANKIN
    -Ian Rankin (reviews, etc. from Twisted Web)
    -REVIEW: of Black and Blue (Crime Reviews, Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Dead Souls (BookBrowser)
    -REVIEW: of Dead Souls Ghost Writing  Gary Marshall detects brilliance in Ian Rankin's Dead Souls (Spike)
     -REVIEW: of Let it Bleed  (BookBrowser)
    -REVIEW: of SET IN DARKNESS By Ian Rankin (Marcel Berlins, London Sunday Times)
    -REVIEW : of The Falls by Ian Rankin (Jane Jakeman, Independent uk)

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