14 July 2012


  • Format: trade paperback
  • first published in Great Britain by Orion Books 2011
  • ISBN 978-0-7528-8954-2
  • 373 pages
  • Source: my local library
  • #2 in the Malcolm Fox series
  • Author website
Synopsis (Author website)

Malcolm Fox and his team from Internal Affairs are back. They've been sent to Fife to investigate whether fellow cops covered up for a corrupt colleague, Detective Paul Carter. Carter has been found guilty of misconduct with his own uncle, also in the force, having proved to be his nephew's nemesis.

But what should be a simple job is soon complicated by intimations of conspiracy and cover-up - and a brutal murder, a murder committed with a weapon that should not even exist.

The spiralling investigation takes Fox back in time to 1985, a year of turmoil in British political life. Terrorists intent on a split between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom were becoming more brazen and ruthless, sending letter-bombs and poisonous spores to government offices, plotting kidnaps and murder, and trying to stay one step ahead of the spies sent to flush them out.

Fox has a duty to get at the truth, while the body count rises, the clock starts ticking, and he fights for his professional and personal life.

My Take

When Rankin introduced Malcolm Fox who works in the Dark Side of the Complaints and Conduct section of Edinburgh's Lothian and Borders Police HQ in THE COMPLAINTS we all wondered whether he was going to replace John Rebus, forcibly retired. The answer I think is that he is a very different character but no less a detective, very largely also a lone wolf, but also more careful to cover his back than Rebus was.

The title of Fox's team has been changed from "Complaints and Conduct" to "Professional Ethics and Standards" but their mission is the same: to investigate claims of police corruption. And when they turn up at a police station they are about as popular as lepers: the boss is at head office, no secure interview room available, people to be interviewed are off sick with lingering illnesses or they are so involved in a current case that they can't spare the time. The air of suspicion and opposition is thick and palpable.

So Fox decides to interview the person who originally laid the complaint about his own nephew: a former police officer who now runs his own successful security firm, and lives in a difficult to find cottage well out of town. Fox interviews him and finds Alan Carter is investigating the death of a political leader, Francis Vernal, nearly twenty years earlier. Strictly speaking the investigation that erupts when Alan Carter is found murdered and his nephew is taken in for questioning should not be of interest to the Complaints, but Fox can't help thinking there must be connections. His interest is further spiked when he finds a picture of his own uncle with Francis Vernal.

This is a carefully layered and constructed tale. We learn more about Malcolm Fox's family and his background, and his relationships with the rest of his team. And it is certainly well written.

I have seen reviews whether bloggers have said they prefer the first in the series, THE COMPLAINTS, but I think I enjoyed THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD as much.

My rating: 4.7

Other reviews to check
Also reviewed on MiP

4.4, WITCH HUNT - writing as Jack Harvey


Maxine Clarke said...

Nice review, Kerrie. Just to clarify your summary of my review, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I think it's an excellent novel that is original and non-"trendy". My question about it is how interested the author is in the cold-case theme he'd started with Fox, as this was not the main point of The Impossible Dead (where Fox ignores his cold cases and pursues a contemporary crime that relates to the old one at the start of the book). I find it interesting in view of my opinion that Rankin a few months later is reported to be bringing Rebus back into the next Fox book, as that's exactly the way I saw it going -- Fox being more involved in Rebus-style cases than in cold ones. (I don't know if that's precisely what will happen, but the return of Rebus implies that cold cases won't be all there is too it, even if his return is to a position in that unit, as Rebus and Fox share in common a refusal to do what their bosses tell them).

Susan said...

I have this book on my shelf to read, asap. I really enjoyed The Complaints, so I'm hoping this one will be good - I expect to like it, since I haven't found much not written well by him, so far. I am excited to hear Rebus might be coming back in the next book. What about Siobhan Clarke? I ended up liking her very much, and wish he would write another novel with her too.

I enjoyed your review and I'm happy to see you enjoyed it as much as the first one.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin