Review

The Impossible Dead

by Ian Rankin

Last year, Scottish author Ian Rankin followed in the footsteps of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle made a bold move in transitioning away from the character who had made him famous --- Sherlock Holmes. In similar fashion, Rankin left behind the Inspector John Rebus series to begin a new one featuring a group of Scottish officers known as “the Complaints.”

"THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD is impossible to put down, and Rankin has created another complicated and endearing character."
In the first of the series --- bearing the name of the team --- Rankin introduced us to Malcolm Fox and his colleagues, Tony Kaye and Joe Naysmith, as they operate in the same style as what U.S. law enforcement would call Internal Affairs. Quite frankly, they are cops investigating other cops.
 
THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD wastes no time getting into the plot. Fox and team have been sent to Fife to investigate a police officer who is suspected of corruption, among other things. Paul Carter held the rank of detective constable and had been a cop for 15 years. Ironically, the original complaint came from his uncle, Alan, himself a former cop from the Fife Constabulary. The accusations began to pile up, with the most damaging including two intoxicated women he allegedly propositioned.
 
After meeting with Alan, he soon turns up dead. His nephew is immediately considered a suspect. As Fox and team dig deeper, they unearth a politically charged case dating back to 1985 that Alan had been involved in. This was a year of upheaval in Scotland, where student and political activists were all at odds, and letter bombs, kidnappings and violent marches were the norm. Controversial lawyer Francis Vernal, who was at the center of all the commotion of the time, died in a suspicious car accident. Alan was working on the case and soon found out how deeply rooted Vernal was and the many reputations that were at risk.
 
The Complaints are having a difficult enough time with the defiant and close-mouthed Fife Constabulary, who are making them feel entirely unwelcome. Now, digging up the past and unsolved crimes from a scandalous era the town would just as soon forget are not making their investigation any easier. As they continue to muddle through, another blow to their case takes them by surprise. Paul’s body is found in the local harbor --- either a victim of suicide or another in a long line of victims in an effort to keep the sins of the past forever buried.
 
Instead of backing off, The Complaints continue to pursue answers without regard for their own safety and never knowing who they can actually trust. Rankin is a master storyteller who never has to resort to shock value in order to tell a good crime story. His stories are hard-hitting but read like intense character studies that place them far above your typical police procedural. THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD is impossible to put down, and Rankin has created another complicated and endearing character.
 

Reviewed by Ray Palen on November 23, 2011

The Impossible Dead
by Ian Rankin