Friday, February 17, 2012

The Complaints by Ian Rankin: A review

When Inspector John Rebus rode off into the sunset to the sound of Exit Music a few years ago, I suffered withdrawal pains. How would I now get my Edinburgh fix? The other Edinburgh series that I was reading by Alexander McCall Smith just wouldn't do it for me. I needed Rankin's Edinburgh.

Well, it turns out, I didn't have too long to wait. In 2009, The Complaints came out, the first in a series featuring Malcolm Fox, a cop who investigates other cops. I have to say that I hesitated about picking up the book, but once I did, just recently, I was soon committed. Here's another series that I'll have to add to my to be read list.

The thing about Rankin's writing is that the city, Edinburgh, is a character in his stories. I love the history, the culture, and all the notes about the grittier side of the town. In this entry, we meet the city and Scotland at a difficult moment. The financial bust has hit the economy hard. Unemployment is up and even those who still have jobs are having a difficult time of it. Immigrants who had come to Scotland during boom times are finding that they are not quite as welcome now.

This is the atmosphere in which we find Malcolm Fox and his team in internal investigations wrapping up a big case against a cop who broke the rules but always "got results." Hmm...reminds one a bit of John Rebus. But Rebus always kept his honor even when he bent the rules. Glen Heaton had no honor. 

Heaton, though, had his admirers and supporters and it soon seems that one or more of them may have found a way to get back at Fox. He finds himself accused, along with a younger cop named Breck, of malfeasance. Both are suspended, with pay, and must find a way to clear themselves, while simultaneously investigating the murder of Fox's sister's life partner. Fox and Breck eventually figure out that there may be a connection between that murder, the apparent suicide of a local builder for whom the sister's lover worked, and their own suspensions. We follow them as they investigate and slowly unravel the ball of yarn leading to the final solution of the mysteries.

Malcolm Fox is a much different character than John Rebus, but they share some of the same tenacity and the same tendency sometimes to get it wrong before they get it right. But there's a "result" in the end.

Ian Rankin's police procedurals are just as sharply written and engaging as ever. I look forward to getting to know Malcolm Fox better.

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