I was very interested in reading this book because I had heard so much about the author and had never read one of his books before, not realizing that would make it difficult to review this as part of a series, so I will review it as a stand-alone.
The final in a long-running series, this book was entertaining, the characters full-fledged and mostly long established. Ian Rankin handles his characters well, the interaction is so natural - fun and serious by turns. There is the bull-headed terrier DI John Rebus, 10 days from retirement, fond of old movies and music who likes to test his young assistant on actors and musicians of decades past; DS Siobhan Clarke, his well-trained assistant who proves herself as both faithful and extremely capable; the straight-up newbie Todd Goodyear, and the two DCs assigned to Rebus, Colin Tibbet and Phyllida Hawes. This comprises the core group under DCI Macrae. Excellent police procedural and team play.
Rankin's portrayal of the murdered expatriated but acclaimed Russian poet rings true. With a group of Russian businessmen in town, could this be political? Then one murder becomes two, with a slight connection between the victims. With tenuous connections, many red herrings and lies, the case quickly escalates into a masterful puzzle, pitting Rebus and Clarke first against DCI Macrae and later against each other. His old nemesis "Big Ger" Cafferty may or may not be involved. This interplay of characters engenders an almost family feeling, as though the past is a part of the present. It also makes for a fascinating ride and draws the reader into the "family".
When the case is taken over by the SCD (SCDEA, Scottish Crime and Drugs Enforcement Agency), and then by DI Derek Starr, I felt the anger along with the rest of the original investigators. With Rebus removed from the case, Clarke proves her mettle and capabilities. I was a little disappointed toward the end, probably mostly on behalf of John Rebus, but also touched. A fit end to a long-standing series.
But, fear not, fans of Rankin. He will be with us for a long time yet, and he currently has his latest book "Doors Open" released as of this month. Whether this is a stand-alone or the beginning of another series I was unable to find out but I as a new fan will be looking up some of the earlier Rebus books, and following future books.