The Complaints by Ian Rankin: Book Review

Apr 9, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Books & Tales, Christopher Lewis, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Christopher Lewis

Ian Rankin became an international sensation with his endearing series about Inspector Rebus of the Lothian and Borders Police in Edinburgh, Scotland. When he retired Inspector Rebus in his bestselling book, Exit Music, he left readers wondering if he would be able to continue to have a successful writing career without his star character. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, after all, had found that he could not live without Sherlock Holmes. However, with his latest book, The Complaints, Ian Rankin has proven that he can indeed live without Inspector Rebus.

In fact, this new series shows promise of matching, if not exceeding, the quality of Rankin’s previous endeavors. It introduces a truly unique approach toward the tried and tested police procedural while maintaining the author’s distinct style as he continues to set his stories in real-life Edinburgh and to carry the authentic flavor of modern Scottish culture.

Malcolm Fox is a detective in the most unpopular department of the police force. It’s called “the Complaints,” and the sole purpose of the department is to investigate other cops. While closing up a case against Glen Heaton, a crooked cop, he is also busy dealing with a father who is in a nursing home and a sister who is trapped in an abusive relationship that she refuses to leave. When her sister’s partner suddenly gets killed, he himself becomes a suspect in an investigation, and to complicate things further the cop he has just been called upon to investigate next, a man called Jamie Breck, turns out to be the very same policeman who is investigating Fox as a possible murder suspect. How long will it take before the two cops realize that they are investigating each other? And when they do, will they discover that they have both been set up in an attempt to divert their attention from another crime much more sinister?

This novel maintains a delicate balance of intrigue, dry humor, philosophy and intelligent mystery from beginning to end. It keeps the reader guessing to the very last chapter. As the story unfolds, a conspiracy is uncovered that leaves the reader wondering who can be trusted until the very last moment when it all comes together. Completely lacking the genre’s usual clichés, Rankin once again produces a unique masterpiece that is all his own. It is certain to leave the reader longing for more from Rankin’s new hero, Malcolm Fox.


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Christopher Lewis is an ongoing contributor to our Helping Hands section, and currently serving as interim pastor at Mountain Valley Community Church in Squaw Valley.

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