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The Impossible Dead

October 16, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Visitors to Ron’s View in recent weeks know that I’ve been busy reading crime novels: two by Lee Child and three by Martin Walker. It all started as I got on the plane to fly off to New York at the start of Labor Day weekend, when I pulled out my Kindle and read Lee Child’s third Jack Reacher thriller, Tripwire. Once I finished that, in Nantucket, I downloaded the first of Martin Walker’s three novels about the eponymous Bruno, Chief of Police. I couldn’t resist jumping right into Bruno’s second adventure next, in The Dark Vineyard. After that, it was time for Lee Child’s latest, The Affair, followed by a return to the Dordogne region of France for Bruno’s entanglement with truffles, or the Black Diamond.

What next? Well, that was determined months ago, when I pre-ordered Ian Rankin’s new novel at amazon.co.uk, the British Amazon site. The Impossible Dead was released on Tuesday and a copy is making its way to Seattle this very moment.

For decades, I wasn’t much of a reader of crime novels. Ian Rankin and Edinburgh’s Inspector Rebus changed all that. It was August 1999, we were nearing the end of another glorious visit to Scotland, and I wanted a book to take with me to La Baule, on the Atlantic coast of France, where we would be joining up with my sister and her family at their standard summer vacation spot to celebrate her birthday (a big one). Rankin’s The Hanging Garden was just out in paperback. I bought it.

A little too violent for my taste, I would think in the ensuing days, as I read it in La Baule. But this Rebus character was intriguing, so when Dead Souls came out in the US, I bought it. Still violent, yes, but Rebus continued to intrigue, I loved Rankin’s depiction of Edinburgh, and a year or so later, I moved on to Set in Darkness.

Finally, I caught on to the fact that these books were published in the UK months ahead of the US, and so ordered the next six online from UK Amazon, paying the extra cost but reading them within days of British publication. It would become amusing, as Rankin’s popularity spread to the US, to see the reviews and the fuss when each new book was released here, having read it a half year earlier.

Along the way, I did some remedial Rebus reading, picking up some of the older books in paperback. And then, alas, the music stopped. Exit Music, to be precise, the final Rebus novel, published four years ago.

It was widely believed among Rebus’s fans that Rankin would keep the series going, shifting the focus to Siobhan Clarke, whose role grew with each of the late novels. But Rankin chose otherwise. Two years ago, in The Complaints, he introduced Malcolm Fox of Edinburgh’s Internal Affairs department. Now Fox returns.

It occurs to me, now that I think about how long this blog has been running, that I must have written about The Complaints at the time. And so I did. Indeed, I’m simply repeating myself here. That’s embarrassing. Let’s see what I thought of Fox at the time:

I wasn’t taken in at first. But then Fox wasn’t interesting at first. The events of the novel change him, or bring out features of his personality that were initially hidden. By the end, he is a richly-drawn character, and another iconoclast in the making. He too upsets and outwits superiors. And yet again, assorted crimes from the seemingly mundane and local to possible corruption at high government levels interweave in unexpected ways — unexpected except that we are so accustomed to such plotting that we know Rankin will find a way to draw them together. Contrived? Sure. But that’s part of the fun, seeing our hero figure out how the pieces fit together while everyone else is clueless.

I’m ready for more.

I’m glad to learn that I was ready for more, given that more is coming. I’ll let you know how it goes.

By the way, in case you’re wondering why I don’t just download The Impossible Dead on my Kindle, thereby saving the overseas shipping cost and delay — I wish! There are two problems. First, it’s not yet available on Kindle. But second, there’s a more fundamental issue: when books are published in the UK before the US, they are not available for download on US Kindles until US publication. Whatever agreements are made between UK and US publishers, they prohibit premature Kindle purchasing. Thus, if I don’t want to wait months, I have to go this route.

Then again, maybe the joke’s on me. I just thought to check US Amazon, and what do you know? The delay in publication, which used to be measured in months, is down to weeks. The Impossible Dead will be released here on November 21. Hardcover or Kindle. A few weeks of patience, with plenty of other books to read in the meantime, and I could have saved some money, as well as having the option of reading the e-version. On the other hand, I have such a lovely collection of Rankin hardcovers. My shelf is ready for another. And it’s coming anyway. I made the right choice.

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