Exit Music by Ian Rankin: Book Review

Exit Music: an Inspector Rebus Novel

Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Orion (7 Aug 2008)
Language English
ISBN-10: 0752893513
ISBN-13: 978-0752893518

Exit Music is the 17th Inspector Rebus novel.  The Crime Thriller Award for  Author of the Year 2008 was awarded to Ian Rankin for this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Having read all the Rebus books in sequence I feel I’ve come to the end of an era as Rebus comes to the end of his career. Actually I felt that he was overdue for retirement, much as he was dedicated to his job he was also weary and disenchanted. At the beginning of this book Rebus is 10 days from his retirement and is anxious to tie up all the loose ends in his current cases, trying to get DS Siobhan Clarke interested in them. So when the body of the dissident Russian poet Alexander Todorov is found dead this is Rebus’s last case. He throws himself into the investigation, desperate to take his mind off the end of his career.

Was it a senseless mugging or was it politically motivated? The Russian Consulate want  Todorov’s death to be seen as a mugging gone wrong but a group of Russian businessmen in Scotland are concerned that the attack was racially motivated. Scottish MSP Megan Macfarlane is also concerned that nothing jeopardised the links and relationships between the two countries.

Todorov had been giving a poetry reading earlier in the evening and was found with his head bashed in. A trail of blood lead to a car park where he’d been killed. Later the body of Eric Riordan, the sound recordist at the poetry reading is found burnt to death in his house. Are the two deaths connected? Various links with the Edinburgh gangland boss, Cafferty further complicate the case.

Rebus is his usual obstinate and difficult self ending up being suspended from the investigation three days from his retirement and it is left to Siobhan to lead the case. Rebus, of course pursues his own investigations regardless -argumentative, opinionated and relentless to the end. He is also obsessed with his battle to take Cafferty down:

Cafferty, he realised, stood for everything that had ever gone sour – every bungled chance and botched case, suspects missed and crimes unsolved. The man wasn’t just the grit in the oyster, he was the pollutant poisoning everything within his reach. (page 170)

It appears that Cafferty is reformed and is now involved in legitimate business transactions with the Russian, but Rebus doesn’t believe it.  When Cafferty ends up in intensive care after a lonely meeting with Rebus on a canal footbridge, Rebus is suspected of attacking him. Has Rebus gone too far in his desire to bring Cafferty to justice?

Exit Music, in which the worlds of crime, politics and business interconnect, provides a fitting end to Rebus’s career, although somehow I don’t think this is the last we’ll see of him. Rebus is the perpetual outsider, and the job has been his whole world. It had cost him his marriage, friendships and shattered relationships and he feels he will just become invisible. But will he?

9 thoughts on “Exit Music by Ian Rankin: Book Review

    1. A music theme runs throughout the book. Rebus is a fan of The Stones etc and for his leaving present Siobhan has bought him an iPod on which she has thoughtfully loaded a selection of his favourites, including The Stones, The Who, Wishbone Ash, and Hawkwind. Rebus calls it his ‘exit music’ contentedly. He, Siobhan, Hawes and Tibbet are having a meal in the Oxford Bar and Rebus listens to the music during the meal (page 440).


  1. Margaret – I am so glad you liked this novel. It really is a fitting end to Rebus’ career, isn’t it? Your review is terrific, and I agree that Rebus is just as stubborn, opinionated, and determined as ever. His passion for his work comes through very strongly in this novel; in fact, it made me feel rather sorry for him in a way. What else has he really got, and what is he going to do? I doubt he’s gone forever…


  2. Hi Margaret,

    I don’t know how you can be so disciplined about reading a series of books in order, I am just not that organised (well I am, but my TBR pile isn’t)

    I have a whole load of Rankin’s ‘Rebus’ books around waiting to be read, but now you have made me feel guilty about fitting them in between other books and probably out of order.

    Mind you, I have been doing that with Peter Robinson’s ‘Banks’ series, and whilst they are still enjoyable, the toing and froing in his private life, because they are out of sequence, may get a bit annoying soon.

    Great review by the way.


    1. Thanks, Yvonne. I began the Rebus books somewhere in the middle and then decided it would be best to read them in sequence and I’m glad I did. I’m not really that disciplined – this is the only series that I’ve managed to read straight through. It helped that my son lent/gave us some of the books and that my husband read them as well – he finished before me! I’ve been reading Peter Robinson’s books completely out of order as well, so I know what you mean about the toing and froing.


  3. I have a handful of Rebus novels on my TBR, but though I like them, I also find them hard to get through. I am determined I will read them – and love them – one day, but I think it takes some effort until I *have* plunged into them.


  4. I would like to read another Rebus book! My husband loves him, and I really liked the one I have had a chance to read — The Falls. There are just so many mystery series to keep up with!


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