24 January 2009

Review: DOORS OPEN, Ian Rankin

Orion books, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7528-9071-5, 260 pages

Bored, too much time on his hands, too much money available, probably best describes self made Edinburgh milllionaire Mike Mackenzie. He and two other artlovers decide to take advantage of Edinburgh's annual Doors Open Day to rob the National Gallery of Scotland's warehouse of some valuable paintings.

Realising they don't actually have the physical power to carry out the heist on their own, Mackenzie involves Chib Calloway, a second string Edinburgh gangster whom he just happened to go to school with.

But any plan is only as strong as its weakest link. And there are lots of weak links. And Mike doesn't take into account a very alert policeman looking to collar Calloway for previous misdemeanors, a gang boss with international connections to whom Calloway owes money, and a double cross by one of their own. Just at the point when Mike is congratulating himself on getting away with it all, things begin to crumble.

This is Rankin's first novel since EXIT MUSIC, in which he retired his "alter ego", D.I. Rebus. Followers were very keen to find out whether Rankin could exist without Rebus, and in the interviews that followed the release of EXIT MUSIC he was pretty coy about what Rebus' role would be in any future novels. Well, the critics are answered. There is not a sign of Rebus in DOORS OPEN.

Can Rankin write stand-alones? Well, yes, he can. He hasn't really ground to a halt or lost his touch with Rebus' retirement. This is a relatively short novel by his standards, and not really so complex. There are few signs of Rankin's social conscience, and I spent much of my reading time thinking it wouldn't rank as highly in my rating system as other Rankin novels in my records. I gave 5.0 to EXIT MUSIC and DOORS OPEN isn't at that level. But the last 50 pages or so pushed the rating up for me, although I didn't particularly like the gung-ho with a romantic element of the final denouement of the heist plot. But then came the Epilogue with its write your own ending element. Not every one will like that. But it left the door nicely open ....

My rating 4.6

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