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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Naming of the Dead

Ian Rankin

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To purchase The Naming of the Dead

Title: The Naming of the Dead
Author: Ian Rankin
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006
Length: 452 pages
Availability: The Naming of the Dead - US
The Naming of the Dead - UK
The Naming of the Dead - Canada
L'appel des morts - France
Im Namen der Toten - Deutschland
  • The Naming of the Dead is the sixteenth John Rebus novel

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Our Assessment:

B+ : enjoyable read

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Entertainment Weekly A- 30/3/2007 Will Boisvert
The Independent . 27/10/2006 Frances Fyfield
NZZ . 18/3/2008 Rainer Moritz
The NY Times Book Rev. . 8/4/2007 Marilyn Stasio
The Observer . 12/11/2006 Peter Guttridge
The Scotsman A 13/10/2006 Allan Massie
Sunday Times . 22/10/2006 David Horspool
The Washington Post . 23/4/2007 Patrick Anderson

  From the Reviews:
  • "Rankin again paints a corrupt world (even Bono's antipoverty crusade is suspect) in convincing shades of gray" - Will Boisvert, Entertainment Weekly

  • "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." - Frances Fyfield, The Independent

  • "Thriller, die literarisch ernst genommen werden wollen, dürfen sich nicht damit begnügen, gesellschaftspolitisch brisante Themen aufzugreifen und knurrige Ermittler mit sich und der Welt hadern zu lassen. Ein bisschen mehr wäre nicht schlecht." - Rainer Moritz, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Rankin vividly captures the bizarre pageantry of this political circus and gives Rebusís partner, the warmhearted Sergeant Siobhan Clarke, a good reason for being in the thick of things" - Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

  • "(A) big, sometimes elegiac, read set against the backdrop of one of the most tumultuous weeks in recent Scottish history (.....) 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" - Peter Guttridge, The Observer

  • "Meanwhile here he is at his best. Indeed, I will go further. The Naming of the Dead is Ian Rankin's finest novel. It is more than a crime novel, or rather, Rankin's achievement is to show, convincingly, how crime permeates society." - Allan Massie, The Scotsman

  • "Rebus may seem always to be running on something very near empty, but there is no sign that Rankin has lost any of the energy to continue this consistently impressive series." - David Horspool, Sunday Times

  • "The book is punctuated by Rankin's grim humor. (...) There were times, reading this book, that I grew impatient with his complicated plot and his endless digressions, but finally I accepted them simply because that's Rankin, that's the nature of his rowdy genius." - Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Naming of the Dead is set at the beginning of July, 2005, during a busy time as everyone is preparing for (and then involved in) a G8 summit and the events surrounding it -- and all the protesters that come with that. (The action is largely set in and around Edinburgh, but on 7 July there are also those London bombings in the background.) There's a huge police presence, with officers trucked in from far and wide for Operation Sorbus ("the policing plan for G8 week"), but they don't want DI John Rebus anywhere near any of that and so he is conveniently left pretty much to his own devices.
       Conveniently, too, a bit of evidence regarding an old case crops up. The G8 summit makes for a few hurdles to any proper investigation, but Rebus and trusty sidekick Siobhan Clarke (who actually gets to head up this part of the investigation) manage to convince the powers that be to let them do some sniffing around for a while.
       The case involves a six-year-old murder, of rapist Cyril Colliar. The murderer had apparently taken a trophy, and that has now turned up -- along with evidence from the deaths of two other seedy characters. After getting out of prison Colliar had gone to work for Rebus' nemesis, 'Big Ger' Morris Gerald Cafferty, and Siobhan knows this is an opportunity Rebus won't let pass by:

     "John, you're a couple of years away from retirement. I know you want one last go at Cafferty."
       Indeed he does. But while Rebus sees things as black and white -- with Cafferty being as black as they get -- things aren't that simple. Along the way Cafferty repeatedly pops up and helps things along -- and threatens to pull some (including Siobhan) down as well.
       Siobhan also has other things on her mind, as her idealistic parents -- never too thrilled about her career choice -- are coming up for the march, and insist on staying at a camp set up for the visiting crowds. Protective Siobhan does her best to look out for the old folks, but there's only so much she can do. And there are others who also seem to pop up suspiciously often, too: a young protester-woman named Santal whom her parents take to, as well as Councilman Tench, whose territory the camp is in (and who is very much at odds with Cafferty ...).
       The apparent suicide of Ben Webster, an important MP, at a posh pre-G8 event, is another case that drops in Rebus' lap. Everyone wants it quickly written off as suicide or accident, but nosy Rebus wants to dig a bit deeper; here, however, he finds almost every step he takes obstructed by the visiting authorities.
       There are links galore between the cases, and Rebus and Siobhan manage to stir a lot up. Are they looking at revenge/vigilante murders ? How about an arms-trade conspiracy ? Rankin tosses all this and a whole lot more in, all the while allowing the events around the G8 to unfold as a fast-moving and often very prominent backdrop (with, for example, Siobhan's parents caught in the thick of things).
       The novel begins with Rebus at the funeral of his brother -- an event he's glad to flee as soon as possible -- and this book is so crowded with action and events that even the 7 July London bombings seem merely incidental. Surprisingly, it doesn't matter much: Rankin has fun following Rebus around, and the reader does as well. Rebus consistently goes his own way -- a nice contrast to the many police officers in for the occasion, many of whom spend much of their time just waiting around for something to happen. And, as Cafferty diagnoses:
     "But it's never been about the money to you, Rebus, never just been a job."
       At another point Rebus sees himself as a janitor, cleaning up the messes everyone else leaves. He certainly is driven -- an appealing trait that Rankin milks for all it's worth.
       It's not a deep character study, of either Rebus or Siobhan, -- indeed, it's often almost comic-book-simple -- but Rankin presents it in confident and entertaining style. The detectives prove a bit dense on occasion, not immediately realizing what it means that a former colleague's sister has moved in with her, for example, or needing to be told that some of the evidence they found is: "ultimately not quite right". Indeed, take the pieces of the mystery together and it's all far too convenient -- so much is connected ! But it's still a very entertaining ride, as Rankin gets the mix of background activity -- the G8, the protests, the concerts, the visiting police (on all levels), the territorial claims and fights for influence -- just right. Rankin puts a lot on his plate, and gets to juggling a lot at the same time, but it feels largely effortless, and it works surprisingly well
       Good fun, The Naming of the Dead is one of the better Rebus novels.

- M.A.Orthofer, 6 April 2009

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The Naming of the Dead: Reviews: Ian Rankin: Other books by Ian Rankin under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Ian Rankin was born in 1960.

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© 2009 the complete review

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