Saturday, November 29, 2008

Doors Open by Ian Rankin

Published: Orion, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7528-9071-5

First line: The open door was only yards away, and beyond it lay the outside world, eerily unaffected by anything happening inside the abandoned snooker hall.

Mike Mackenzie is very rich and very bored, so when a friend suggests the perfect crime he is more than a little interested. Professor Robert Gissing, the head of the Art School, annoyed about the amount of art locked away from public view, in private collections and warehouses, proposes the “repatriation of some of those poor imprisoned works of art”.

Mike, Gissing and another friend, banker Allan Cruikshank, devise a plan to use the annual Doors Open day to steal a number of paintings from the National Gallery of Scotland's warehoused collection and make it appear that nothing is actually missing. As their plans begin to take shape they realise they are going to need some 'professional' help. A chance encounter with Chib Calloway, a local gangster and an old school acquaintance of Mike's, suddenly makes it all possible.

But it all starts to go very wrong when Mike finds he is much more deeply involved in the criminal world than he ever wanted to be. Bringing Chib into the plan may not have been such a good idea after all. But Chib is not their only worry – there's the dogged policeman, the talented but dangerously mischievous student, the greedy girlfriend, not to mention the very large Norwegian bikie called Hate.

DOORS OPEN is the eagerly awaited first post-Rebus book by Ian Rankin. It is not a totally new work, but a reworked and extended version of a serialised story originally written for the New York Times. Set in the Edinburgh art world, it is a very different environment to that inhabited by Rebus, however there are some common themes. The two faces of Edinburgh again feature strongly and the association of characters from both sides has echoes of Rebus and Cafferty, but Mike and Chib are quite different characters, and their relationship is very different as well.

While DOORS OPEN does not have the depth of the Rebus books, it is written with Rankin's usual flair, and so can't fail to entertain. It doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is - a terrific fast paced thriller. Fairly lightweight but with a dark edge, the plot has enough twists and turns to make for a satisfying read. The book really comes into its own in the last third when it becomes much edgier, and I had trouble putting it down from that point. Much as I enjoyed this book, I'm hoping that Rankin was just using it as a palate cleanser before returning to something with a bit more substance.

Ian Rankin lives in Edinburgh and is the author of the wonderful Inspector Rebus series. More information can be found at Ian Rankin's website.

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