No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Friday, September 04, 2009

#63: Doors Open -- Ian Rankin

"You're telling me you think Chib Calloway is a man to be trusted?"
"He's got more to lose than any of us. With a record like his, the law would come down on him like Carl Andre's bricks." (p. 103)

Self-made man Mike Mackenzie is bored: when a friend suggests the 'perfect crime', the 'repatriation of some of those poor imprisoned works of art' -- paintings by Scottish artists, locked away as investments or in gallery storage -- Mike leaps at the chance to inject a bit of excitement into his life. Everything revolves around 'Doors Open Day', when corporations, galleries and banks open the doors of interesting buildings to the public.

Whilst plotting the crime, Mike renews his acquaintance with an old schoolmate, 'Chib' Calloway, now a major player in Edinburgh's murky underworld. Chib (who is uncannily like Mike himself) has fallen foul of a gang of Norwegian drug-dealers, whose representative comes to pay a visit. Chib could do with some ready money -- or something more negotiable -- and Mike finds himself backed into a corner by a series of coincidences and improbable connections, all avidly watched by Detective Inspector Ransome, who's keen to see Chib where he belongs.

Mike and his friends are ... well, not very proficient at this 'crime' stuff. They print out maps from the Internet (apparently unaware that search history can be traced); employ a dope-smoking art student with a bolshy girlfriend and a taste for transformative work; don't think of listening in to police radio ... There is a perfect crime in this novel, or at least a better-constructed one than the plot Mike thinks he's part of: seeing how that secondary crime is constructed and played out is part of the fun, and the shift in focus between the two crimes is the pivot-point of the novel.

There is one excessively annoying thing about this book -- Rankin seems to've got hold of one of those 'said-books' that offers a plethora of synonyms for the word 'said'. (Ref: Turkey City Lexicon.) I really hope this is some perverse stylistic experiment. There are whole pages where the word 'said' is omitted in favour of 'asked', 'intoned', 'queried', 'noted' etc etc ad nauseum. (Illustrated at right: click for larger version, potential spoilers blurred out.)

And frankly, it was hard to immerse myself in the plot when the prose was so annoying. If an experiment, moderation is key: if a trait, please to be stopping now.

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