Whenever I see Ian Rankin I feel so pleased. It’s like meeting an old friend. Then I have to remind myself that he doesn’t know me, and that I haven’t actually read any of his books. One short story. Maybe two. But now, now I have actually read one of Ian’s novels.
With our usual flair for things we bought two copies of Doors Open for Christmas. I gave Son the one I bought. The Resident IT Consultant bought one, possibly for himself, even. That’s the one I took on holiday with me, intending to ditch it at the other end once read. I hadn’t calculated on how long it would take me to finish, so the ditching has now taken place at the home of Pippi instead, but she likes Edinburgh, so all is well. It may even go some little way towards offsetting all the food she gave me, not to mention a bed for the night. (And I’m the guest from hell, just so you know.)
What did I think? Well, for all that the Resident IT Consultant liked Doors Open, I found it slow, and long. I’m not sure what Ian could have cut, but it was too long for me, for the plot. Which is an Art heist, which is sort of fun and very cultured, albeit against the law.
You meet the perpetrators and get to like them so it’s hard to know what to think. Should you approve of crime, when it is ‘just’ helping yourself to some art?
But then you meet a really bad baddie, even though he drinks coffee at Cento Tre. But then you almost like him. And there is a worser baddie than him. And then you get to know the detective, so I wasn’t sure where to place my loyalty. Although I came to dislike the policeman after a while.
The main character, Mike Mackenzie, is quite ‘nice’, but perhaps too rich and unthinking to be totally likeable. The heist goes well-ish. But you know something will be very bad, because that’s how the novel begins.
Things are bad and things are good. Halfway along I got pretty anxious, so Ian was clearly projecting something in my direction. Some of the ending was good, some justified, and some just plain ‘was-that-all?’. The epilogue also ends with too much of a ‘what-is-about-to-happen-here-then?’
So, what I really thought after what was a pretty solid performance from our Mr Ranking, was that it was OK and quite nice as Edinburgh crime goes. But for fast-paced heist type books that make you sit up and laugh and really engage with the characters, whether good or bad or just plain stupid, you want Donna Moore’s Old Dogs or Declan Burke’s The Big O or Crime Always Pays.
Take my word for it. Donna and Declan don’t make quite as much money from their writing as Ian does. But they should.
And I still love Ian Ranking, sorry, Rankin.
(The mis-spelling became an in-joke while I was reading, and as innocent people have to be protected I can’t say any more.)
Now I suppose Ian will never be my ‘friend’.