Detective Rebus digs in to plot kept stirred by colorful characters
by: , ‘The Naming of the Dead,’ by Ian Rankin, published by Little, Brown and Co.

The battle-weary but still sharp character John Rebus is celebrating his 20th anniversary.

It has been two decades since Ian Rankin introduced his Edinburgh detective to the world in 'Knots and Crosses.'

Now Rebus is starring in 'The Naming of the Dead,' a mystery set against the backdrop of an international conference of world leaders and an accompanying influx of peace demonstrators.

Previous fans will not be surprised to hear that Rebus, never one to let procedure or politeness stand in the way of solving a case, has been left out of the massive security detail that envelops the city of Edinburgh. The hope is that keeping him away from the action will prevent him from insulting any dignitaries.

Fortunately for Rebus, who hates weekends the way most people dread Monday mornings, the death of a paroled rapist and the supposed suicide of a British parliamentarian pull him off desk duty.

Along with his partner, Detective Sgt. Siobhan Clarke, he begins an investigation with more twists and turns than a Scottish country lane.

By himself, Detective Inspector Rebus would travel a tired, lonely road to solve a mystery.

Thankfully, Rankin has surrounded him with colorful characters such as his nemesis, the seemingly untouchable crime boss Morris Gerald Cafferty. Like two sides of a well-worn coin, the men have an adversarial relationship that contains elements of mutual admiration.

A somewhat mellowed Cafferty now feels he can help Rebus, but the latter isn't sure he can trust his lifelong enemy:

'It was always business with me, Rebus, back in the old days … '

'That's a myth all you butchers use. You forget, Cafferty, I've seen what you did to people.'

Cafferty gave a slow shrug. 'A different world … '

Dialogue like this moves the book along when it appears to be bogging down in a deluge of details surrounding the G8 summit. But it is the character of Siobhan Clarke who nearly hijacks the story with a side plot concerning her aged hippie parents, in town with thousands of other protesters.

In painful and believable writing, Rankin details the too-common story of adult children continuing to seek validation from their parents.

As obsessed and devoted a detective as Rebus, Siobhan is determined not to end up like him. She 'wanted to do the job well, but be able to switch off now and again. Wanted a life outside her job, rather than a job that became her life. Rebus had lost family and friends, pushing them aside in favor of corpses and con men, killers. … She wanted more.'

By the end of the book, readers may want a bit more as well. Whether this is of Clarke or Rebus remains to be seen.

Ian Rankin

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 16

Where: Powell's City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside St., 503-228-4651

Also reading this week

Portland's own Ariel Gore is eager to save you big bucks and steer you away from that costly MFA program and toward best-sellerdom.

Her new book, 'How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead,' focuses not only on writing techniques but hints on how to promote your book once it's in print.

Gore will read at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Powell's on Hawthorne (3723 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., 503-228-4651).

Fans of political reporter Michelle Goldberg have been praising her book, 'Kingdom Coming,' which has just gone to paperback.

It is a disturbing and fascinating look at the Christian right as well as the political and financial ties between conservative Christians and the Bush administration.

Goldberg will appear at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Powell's City of Books (1005 W. Burnside St., 503-228-4651).

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