Prolific mystery author Ian Rankin has just published a new novel in his hugely popular series about the Edinburgh police inspector John Rebus. The book is called, appropriately enough, Exit Music. But is this really the end of the line for the acerbic, unconventional hero?
That depends. The authors of iconic detective characters have tried almost since the inception of the mystery genre to rid themselves of their most noted heroes, but with mixed results. Remember what happened when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sent his beloved Sherlock Holmes over the falls, locked in a death-grip with Moriarty? First,
Holmes showed up eight years later in The Hound of the Baskervilles, a tale supposedly released "posthumously" by the faithful Watson. Then, Conan Doyle just bit the bullet and brought his detective back from the dead with "The Adventure of the Empty House," and many more stories in the series followed.
On the other hand, Agatha Christie took no chances with Hercule Poirot. He dies at the end of the final novel. Curtain. As does Inspector Morse, in Colin Dexter's moving finale to his detective series, The Remorseful Day. Had Ian Fleming taken the same care with James Bond, we wouldn't have had to endure the pseudo-Bond thrillers written by others after the British author's death.
But what about Exit Music? Is this really the end for John Rebus? According to early reviews of the novel, things are left a bit up in the air...which is fine by me.
As Mark Twain famously said, "Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." Thankfully, this is true for many of crime fiction's most beloved characters.
By the way, I believe the same might be said about Barack Obama's chances for victory in November. Things aren't always over just because they seem to be. That's what comebacks are all about, in crime fiction, sports, and---hopefully---politics.
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