Ian Rankin is best known for his Detective John Rebus police procedurals. When several years ago he decided to retire his alcoholic, curmudgeonly loner of a superb cop, fans were up in arms. How and with whom could Rankin replace this loveable/unlovable anti-hero? But as time went on and Rankin offered a couple of stand-alone novels, he finally found a new hero: Malcolm "Foxy" Fox.
Foxy never thought of himself as a fox. ‘"A bear of a man'…was the way one of his previous bosses had described him. Slow but steady, and only occasionally to be feared.'" He worked at Lothian and Borders Police HQ in the Conduct and Corrections department. In the United States they are referred to as Internal Affairs. Whether in Scotland or America, their colleagues do not trust this group of cops; they are hated for being snoops and thought of as turncoats ratting on their own.
Foxy has a lot to deal with. First and foremost is maintaining his five-year feat of beating his alcoholism. He never gives in, no matter how strong the yearning. He lives alone and cannot forgive himself for hitting his wife before she walked out. His instincts are sharp and he's very intuitive. Also on his plate is his father, who is in a nursing home he pays for, and a depressed alcoholic sister whose partner, Vince Faulkner, is a batterer he can't get her to leave. Then one night the guy doesn't come home. He's been murdered, and the complex plot moves into high gear.
Faulkner was a construction worker on a site that lost its funding and was palling around with known hoodlums. He was found bludgeoned to death and stabbed on one of the deserted building sites. While it really isn't Foxy's job to solve this crime, he can't help but hear things and put the bits together, which lead to cops involved in underhanded dealings. That's where he must work to solve the disparate crimes and find criminals, even if they lead to cops he knows. Foxy starts an investigation of his own and soon finds himself on suspension. This doesn't stop him.
As a matter of fact, Child Protection, Child Exploitation and Online Protection, another unit buried deep within the corrections, targets another policeman. They are thought of as "the Chop Shop" or "the dark side," which is run by a woman who Foxy has a passing, friendly romantic interlude. But when he finds out how she betrayed him, he dismisses her. The target of her investigation is Detective Jamie Breck. They think he's involved in a child pornography ring located in Australia. Ironically he's teamed up with Foxy, whose mission is to investigate him. But he and Breck like each other and become a team operating on their own. He, too, is put on suspension, so the two men spend a lot of time together.
Ian Rankin is a master at plots and characters. THE COMPLAINTS is a complex and challenging book with a strong storyline. The plot races and tension rises, and readers are lured into that wonderful place where they just can't wait to turn the page. Foxy is a strong character who is well-honed and can carry a series, which seems to be Rankin's plan. Fans will miss Rebus, but they are getting a hero who has some of Rebus's good traits and little of his bad ones. In an interview, Rankin said, "Malcolm Fox is the antithesis of Rebus."
THE COMPLAINTS is a tightly woven story of good vs. evil but with a glance at the brighter side of life, too. Rankin fans will find themselves entertained and eager for book two of the series. In that same interview, Rankin said, "There's more of his ego and subconscious to be explored. And I like him as a character and a human being, so I can envisage one more book with him, but not 17." There you have it: at least one more book and then even Rankin is not sure.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on October 31, 2011