The common notion about retirement is that it's something to look forward to, a time to relax and enjoy one's remaining years after decades of putting the nose to the grindstone. But that is the upside. The downside is the feeling of becoming useless, sensing the brain atrophying. There's nothing to do but watch the paint dry.
Standing In Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin, 356pp, 2012 Orion paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 625 baht
A colleague bought a pretty little house in the country in England with his savings, never tiring of showing its picture around, surrounded by a white picket fence. We wished him off at the airport. In a matter of months, word reached us that he'd died of a heart attack.
An American columnist kept writing about his intention of spending his waning years in a rocking chair on his brother's porch watching the waves come in at Waikiki. Which he did. Until he reappeared at the paper.
"The rocking and the waves made me dizzy," he told the editor.
Several years ago Ian Rankin, Scotland's top crime fiction author, stopped writing about his popular literary creation of 20 books. Detective Inspector John Rebus had been retired by Edinburgh's CID. Ex-army, divorced, father of a grown daughter living away, having to give up his career was simply maddening.
To the delight of his multitude of his fans, Rankin has brought back Rebus in Standing In Another Man's Grave. Apparently the retirement age was raised, enabling him to reapply. But as there is red tape, he's taken on as a civilian working with the police, without actually being one.
There are mixed feelings on the Force about having Rebus back. While unequalled at solving crimes, he makes no effort to hide his disdain of officers promoted by being sycophants rather through ability. Then again he smokes heavily and drinks heartily.
Initially assigned to working on cold (old unsolved) cases, Rebus takes on new cases of teenage girls abducted over the years while on the A9 road, stepping on the toes of those cases. Needless to say, he ultimately finds the serial killer. With the assistance of Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke (no romance).
The author has our hero driving all over Scotland, with vivid descriptions of each area. The characters are credible _ police, gangsters, city folk and farmers. Rebus is brain not brawn, so doesn't get into brawls. Aficionados can now expect more books from Ian Rankin, which is good news indeed.
The Expats by Chris Pavone, 487 pp, 2012 Faber & Faber paperback. Available at Asia Books and leading bookshops, 325 baht
Everybody lies _ men, women, children _ either because they don't want secrets divulged or they refuse to take the blame for something they did or ought to have done but didn't. Then there are those who lie to put themselves in a better light, are in professions requiring hiding the truth. Not to mention pathological liars.
Yet we know and accept this, however annoying. We also know that it's bad form to accuse someone of lying. If you do the person tends to be angry, quite possibly violent. A better, certainly safer reaction when being told a lie is: "Is that a fact?"
The difference between a lie and a white lie is an exercise in semantics.
A longtime Yank book editor who spent years in Europe, Chris Pavone has penned his first novel. The Expats is about two US Intelligence agencies _ the CIA and FBI _ whose agents and special agents tell lies in order to learn the truth. Which applies to intelligence agencies everywhere.
The protagonists in this story are two women: Kate and Julia. Marginally less important are Kate's husband Dexter and Julia's partner Bill. The author is in no hurry to inform the reader that Kate is not merely a housewife and the mother of two, but ex-CIA. And that Julia and Bill are FBI.
Apparently oblivious to any of this, Dexter is in investment banking. "Apparently" is the operative word, for we're told hundreds of pages on that he is aware of it. Being a spy isn't as glamorous as Ian Fleming would have us believe, but they do get to travel. Much of the setting here is Luxembourg.
Apart from running agents and murdering baddies, espionage work is routine not to say boring. It is Julia who comes up with a plan to make it lucrative. Hacking into money transfers via the internet. Her rationalisation is that a lot of it is dirty (dishonestly made) money.
In little time, 50 million has rolled in. While deciding where to put it for safe-keeping, they learn secrets about one another which makes virtually everything they'd said about themselves for hundreds of pages lies. And Kate isn't as heart and soul into the IT robbery as the others.
There are other personae in the plot, other countries visited, none vital to the story. The latter chapters will have you shaking your head wondering what's real and isn't. Pavone is no le Carre who employs richer language and creates believable, not neurotic characters.
About the author
- Writer: Bernard Trink
Position: Freelance Writer