A.V. Club Most Read

News Newswire Great Job, Internet!
TV Club All Reviews What's On Tonight
Video All Video A.V. Undercover A.V. Cocktail Club Film Club
Reviews All Reviews Film TV Music Books
Features All Features Wiki Wormhole AVQ&A
Sections Film Tv Music Food Comedy Books Games Aux
Our Company About Us Contact Advertise Privacy Policy Careers RSS
Onion Inc. Sites The Onion The A.V. Club ClickHole Onion Studios

Ian Rankin: Resurrection Men


Resurrection Men

Author: Ian Rankin
Publisher: Little, Brown

Community Grade

  • A
  • A-
  • B+
  • B
  • B-
  • C+
  • C
  • C-
  • D+
  • D
  • D-
  • F

Your Grade


The detectives in Ian Rankin's police procedurals head straight for their CD players when they get off work, unwinding to an eclectic selection of pop music ranging from Van Morrison to Boards Of Canada. The explicit recital of what his characters listen to is more than just Rankin's way of giving readers a peek into his record collection. Resurrection Men is his 13th mystery novel featuring Detective Inspector John Rebus of the Edinburgh police. Rebus is the kind of morally ambiguous cop that's become prevalent in modern crime fiction: a cranky realist who chases down justice even if it means he has to work deals with the criminal underground. He's also a rabid rockophile, and his hobby reinforces who he is: a roguish variation on the U.K. "lad," with Nick Hornby's sense of personal taste as self-definition and a thick streak of gloomy post-punk romanticism. In Resurrection Men, Rebus gets to be more introspective than usual because of the case he's working. After hurling a mug of tea at his superior officer, he's assigned to the police academy to take a class on teamwork. While there, he simultaneously works to solve a murder back at his precinct and to investigate corruption in other outposts of the Scottish force. The latter task strikes Rebus as especially ironic, given his own off-the-books relationships with the mob, as well as his attempts to stymie his classmates in their team-building exercise–an inquiry into one of his own cold cases. For the bulk of the narrative, Rebus wonders if he's being suckered, and if in fact he's being watched by the people he's supposed to be watching. That atmosphere of distrust is central to the Inspector Rebus mystery formula, which is often flavored by the characters' unstable relationships. Rankin richly conveys the psychology of the police, bent slightly by the power they have over civilians and by the confidence that they can walk, without hassle, into the ritziest mansion or the sleaziest massage parlor. He's also a master at laying out exterior and interior landscapes. Rankin loads up on the details of Scottish social stratification, peppering his narrative with sudden violence that shakes up the heroes. By now, he's built up quite a cast, most notably Rebus' simpatico partner Siobhan Clarke (a refined young woman with a weakness for her mentor's results-driven methods and standoffish attitude) and a casually sinister, Lex Luthor-like mob boss. Resurrection Men juggles subplots, subtly shifting to a minor character's limited perspectives when necessary, and slipping in new crises and new musical references right up to the end.