THE COMPLAINTS by Ian Rankin
We all know and love Ian Rankin's iconic and irascible, not to mention irreverent, Edinburgh detective John Rebus. He’s a heavy drinker, perpetually on the outs with higher authority, and has a murky sense of professional ethics.
Rankin practically invented the tartan noir genre with this character. The Rebus plots are complex, motivations are every shade of gray, and the streets and skyline of Edinburgh are on full display. If you haven't read a John Rebus novel, you have my condolences.
But this isn’t a Rebus novel.
THE COMPLAINTS introduces a new character into Rankin's familiar Edinburgh crime fiction landscape. Malcolm Fox is a well-respected inspector in the Complaints department, which in the US we'd call Internal Affairs. In short, he investigates
crimes committed by other cops, which doesn't necessarily make him a popular guy outside of his tight-knit team.
Unlike Rebus, Fox isn't a drinker but a recovering alcoholic. Divorced, a bit stiff, wears a suit and suspenders every day. Drives a Volvo.
As the book opens, Fox is wrapping up a case against a cop who is taking kickbacks. The cop has powerful allies but Fox has prevailed. Now, Fox is asked to look into another cop. Jamie Breck is on the career fast track but might be part of an online child porn ring.
But before Fox can start the new probe, his sister's abusive partner is murdered. Breck is assigned as lead detective. Fox's bosses say to ignore the obvious conflict of interest and stay on the child porn ring investigation by tagging along with Breck as he investigates the
What happens next is the careful wrapping of multiple streams of mystery into single strand to snare the real culprits. And there are many. Fox and Breck begin swapping details about the murder victim and his associates, which in turn tracks back to . . . which in turn leads to . . .
Sorry, no spoilers apart from saying the climax is superb.
Complicated, but believable, Rankin gives Fox layers and layers of deception to peel away. Along the way we grow to like Fox. He's starchy, but clever. Honest, but able to deceive.
Fox appears in the most recent John Rebus novels, including IN A HOUSE OF LIES but he's best met in THE COMPLAINTS. Highly recommended.
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