Police procedurals don’t get better than The Complaints. Ian Rankin is in riveting good form. I couldn’t put down the book until I finished it. And it doesn’t even feature Inspector Rebus, who had his swansong in Exit Music, published in 2007.
The Complaints, published last year, presents a new hero: Inspector Malcolm Fox, also one of Edinburgh’s finest, but not a criminal investigator like Rebus; Fox’s job is to investigate other cops. He is the man from Internal Affairs, or what in Edinburgh is called the Complaints. Here, however, he himself is under investigation, apparently for the murder of his sister’s live-in boyfriend. But, as he fights to clear his name, he discovers he is being framed by dirty cops and gangsters.
One big difference with the Inspector Rebus mysteries: there’s hardly a reference to the Rolling Stones. Fox is not a rocker like Rebus.
The Complaints is more tightly focused than the last two Rebus novels: The Naming of the Dead (published in 2006) and Exit Music. Those were murder mysteries which also looked at the world at large. The G8 summit in Scotland in 2005 provided the backdrop for The Naming of the Dead, and Scottish banks and Russian money were part of the plot in Exit Music. There is less political and social commentary in The Complaints. Taut and suspenseful, it is more like a Michael Connelly mystery. And mysteries don’t come tauter than that.
Rankin was in India, where he has legions of fans, last month. The Hindu newspaper published a conversation between him and Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Karat read politics at the University of Edinburgh, in Rankin’s hometown. He has also read all the 17 Rebus novels. He drew a parallel between Rankin and Connelly, and Rankin agreed, yes, Connelly was the author he would read if he wanted to find out something about contemporary Los Angeles. “What I like about crime fiction is the sense of place,” he said. He certainly gives us a sense of Edinburgh.