Monday, February 4, 2013

Redonkulus Reads

It's impossible to keep up with slang. What I'd call "cool," my kids call "hot." But whether I use "outtasight" or "da bomb" to describe the books below, I recommend them for a winter night's reading.

He's baaaaack! Yes, hallelujah, Ian Rankin had mercy upon us. After retiring Edinburgh cop John Rebus in 2007's Exit Music, Rankin brings him back in 2012's Standing in Another Man's Grave.

U.S. cover of book published in 2013
by Little, Brown and Company
Rebus is still an ex-cop, although he's working as a civilian for the Serious Crime Review Unit of the Lothian and Borders Police when he fields Nina Hazlitt's call. Her daughter, Sally, disappeared on New Year's Eve in 1999 and Nina is convinced that it was only the first in a connected series of disappearances by young women who were traveling on the A9 through the Scottish Highlands. Brigid Young in 2002. Zoe Beddows in 2008. Nina hasn't been able to persuade any cops of her theory but Rebus tacks up a map of the A9 onto his wall at home and starts to sniff around. Researching these cold cases leads him to Edinburgh's CID. There he hooks up with his protégé, DS Siobhan Clarke, to investigate the three-day disappearance of 15-year-old Annette McKie, who got on a bus to Inverness for a party and hasn't been seen since. Her last message was a photo transmitted from her mobile phone.

It's not the same Edinburgh police department Rebus retired from. New DCI James Page doesn't understand Rebus's references to Led Zeppelin, and there's a young cop who sits at her computer all day, doing research and interacting with online social communities. Other things haven't changed. Rebus still drinks and smokes too much. He effortlessly gets on his superiors' nerves and mostly ignores their instructions. He remains a subject of interest to Malcolm Fox in Complaints, the internal affairs division. Fox (yes, Rankin's new series protagonist, a straight arrow completely unlike Rebus, appears in this book) says there is no longer room in the police force for even one maverick who bends the rules while breaking cases. Fox distrusts Rebus and his socializing with retired criminal bigwig Big Ger Cafferty, whose life Rebus once saved, and other career criminals connected with the McKie case. Rebus, feeling like vinyl in a digital age, climbs in his old Audi and hits the A9 to chase down leads, while dodging the press and his bosses.

If having Rebus back in unofficial harness isn't, like whoa, enough, the force's mandatory retirement age has changed and he can apply for reinstatement. Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch can unretire, so why not Rebus? There's only one sticking point. Rebus may need to lose a few pounds to pass the physical fitness test. After this atmospheric book, in which little is what it seems, more Rebus would be too coolish for words.

Rod Bradbury translated from the Swedish
and Hyperion published it in 2012
Like the poor women in Rankin's book, Allan Karlsson doesn't plan to disappear in Jonas Jonasson's amusing debut, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. He's never been one to ponder things too long, so almost before he knows it, he's slipping away from the Old Folks' Home in Malmköping, Sweden, and the birthday party about to take place in his honor. Allan decides he "could die some other time, in some other place." He ignores the beckoning of the shop where he buys his vodka and shuffles off to the bus station.

There, a long-haired punk whose big suitcase on wheels won't fit into the small restroom with him asks Allan to watch it while he relieves himself. The restroom door has no sooner swung closed before Allan's bus appears. So Allan "surprised himself by making what--you have to admit--was a decision that said 'yes' to life." He gets onto the bus with the suitcase and asks the driver how far a fifty-crown note will take him.

Allan is not the old coot the enraged punk/criminal who owns the money-filled suitcase assumes he is. He was once a famous demolitions expert who offered his explosive services to world leaders of all stripes, from Franco to Mao to Stalin to Truman. Allan not only hobnobbed with the powerful, he himself affected world events. Jonasson weaves stories of Allan's colorful past into his present adventure, in which he and his unconventional new friends are pursued by both police and criminals. Jonasson's droll writing and quirky characters are perfect for a satire about aging, crime, police investigations and the making of history. It's sweet sauce for topping off a very long day.


  1. Della, I'm excited about both of these books, though I suppose I should read The Complaints first. It's been on my TBR shelves for months. I'm going to get the audiobook of the Jonas Jonasson for my next listen. Just in time, too, since I only have about a day left on my current audio. Thanks!

    1. Sister, I haven't read the two Malcolm Fox books but it would be interesting to read The Complaints before seeing Fox here, grousing about the Complaints' shelf, rather than one file, devoted to mavericky Rebus.

      Ian Rankin had a good time writing Standing in Another Man's Grave, I think. There's a playfulness in how Rebus annoys his SCRU boss by refusing to call him Daniel as he's asked to do but calls him Danny or Dan instead. I hope there will be more Rebus books.

      I think you'll enjoy the Jonas Jonasson book. I liked Allan, who has verve despite his creaky knees. It should be entertaining on audio.