@@ (2 out of 5)
Consider this cast of characters: a burned-out 37-year-old retired software millionaire, a gorgeous art gallery owner with a taste for retired software millionaires, a sleazy professor of art, a divorced and self-pitying banker facing up to the emptiness of his life, a bitter young art student with an extraordinary talent for artistic mimicry, a cynical mob boss, the tattooed enforcer for a drug-running Hells’ Angels gang, and an ambitious young police inspector. Now mix and match this motley collection of heroes and misfits, inject them (at different times and in different ways) with a plan for the “perfect crime,” then shake, rattle, and roll. What have you got? Why, it’s yet another in the endless succession of caper stories that spring from the minds of crime writers and producers of B-movies.
Yes, here is Ian Rankin writing the tale of a classic heist–where the loot is second-rate Scottish artwork. Heist stories, of course, are of three varieties: the ones where the plan unravels and the bad guys are caught; the ones where the plan unravels and most of the bad guys are caught except for a couple of unnaturally handsome people who walk off together into the sunset; and the ones where the good guys really turn out to be bad guys after all and nobody gets caught. Doors Open more or less fits into one of those categories. You’ll have to read the book to find out for yourself which one. Unfortunately, it won’t be a lot of fun to do so.
Doors Open is a surprising disappointment from Ian Rankin, a Scottish writer of crime novels sometimes billed as the UK’s best-selling author. Rankin previously wrote a series of 14 novels celebrating the cranky, anti-establishment Edinburgh policeman, John Rebus, and his sidekick, Siobhan Clarke. The claim of best-seller status isn’t difficult to credit, since Rankin has written a total of 25 novels, three other books, and a slew of short stories since 1986 — and the Inspector Rebus novels, at least, are tightly written, intricately plotted, psychologically credible, and a joy to read. Sadly, Inspector Rebus appears to have slunk off over the horizon in 2008 with the publication of Exit Music. I’ll miss the curmudgeonly old guy!