Thursday, March 29, 2012


The master of the Scottish police procedural mystery, Ian Rankin, has returned to the format with The Complaints. More famous for his best-selling series of seventeen(!) books featuring the alcoholic and somewhat misanthropic Edinburgh Police Detective Inspector John Rebus, Rankin ended that series with 2008's Exit Music and featured the Edgar-award winning Resurrection Men. (Probably the best book in the series and a good place to start, even though its about midway through the series, which are in chronological order.)

As soon as I saw that Rankin had published two books  in the last year featuring the same character, I immediately added them to my holiday wish list, and Satan Santa was kind enough to get them for me. The Complaints and The Impossible Dead have some similarities to the Inspector Rebus mysteries: they are set in Edinburgh, include violent deaths and feature police work. The main character is Malcolm Fox, who is a very different beast from Rebus. Fox is what we would call in the United States, an Internal Affairs officer, that is a cop who investigates other cops. As such, Fox and his team are generally considered persona non grata by the rest of the force. In Rankin's depiction of police work, the only officers on the Edinburgh Police force to have lower status than the Complaints is the division which prosecutes child pornography, since clearly people who spend their entire work day looking at unspeakable pictures of children in sexual situations must have something "off' about them.

As it turns out, the latest case that Malcolm Fox has dropped in his lap at the start of The Complaints is about a fellow police officer named Detective Sergeant Jamie Breck whose credit card has apparently been used to join a website where pictures of underage boys can be exchanged. It seems like a pretty open and shut case, but of course, since this is an Ian Rankin mystery, there is much, much more to the case.

Breck is on the Murder Squad, and when Fox's sister's live-in boyfriend is found dead a mere hours after he had apparently left his woman bruised and battered at home, Breck is assigned to the case and Fox meets his target in a very different setting than his usual cases and gets to know and admire Breck, which causes Fox to more closely examine the Complaint against Breck.

The same weekend that the body is found, one of the most prominent real estate developers in Edinburgh goes missing at sea, and his body stubbornly refuses to turn up? Are the two (or three) cases related? Of course they are.

How Rankin weaves together the various plot elements The Complaints while introducing us to his new police protagonist (and his two sidekicks/fellow detectives) in a nuanced and compelling way makes as good a read as any of his best John Rebus novels., They were known for the complexity of their mysteries and the emotional resonance of the graphic look at modern-day police work.

With The Complaints, Rankin shows us that even though the color and canvass have slightly changed, he remains a great artist.

TitleThe Complaints.
Author: Ian Rankin.
Length: 480 pages.
Publisher: Back Bay Books.
Published: November 2, 2011.

OVERALL GRADE: A/A- (3.833/4.0).


No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin