Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What we thought: This was my first chance to catch up with post-Rebus Rankin and I wasn’t sure what to expect. The opening was a little slow – how exciting could a story about investigating an accusation of sexual misconduct really be? But I needn’t have worried. Before long the lead officer of the ‘Complaints’ team has stumbled on a link with a possible political assassination from the 1980s, and the story is off and away with the usual Rankin panache.

In lesser hands this could have degenerated into a Boy’s Own spy story, but Rankin’s deep understanding of Scottish politics and history shines through, giving the story heft without ever letting it become polemical.

Malcolm Fox is a very different character to John Rebus – a non-drinker with an aging father to care for and a choppy relationship with his sister. Rankin evokes the jokey camaraderie within the three-man team, the hostile relationship between ‘Complaints’ and the rest of the police force and the sometimes strained but always tender bond between father and son.

Most of the action here takes place not in Edinburgh but in Kirkcaldy, a coastal town the far side of the Forth Bridge. Fox is an Edinburgh cop, but he is brought in here as an outsider. The Forth Bridge doesn’t quite work here like the Oresund Bridge in the Scandi noir series, The Bridge, but it does create some of the same duality of closeness and separation.

You’ll enjoy this if you liked: Peter May, Simon Beckett and of course any earlier Rankin

Avoid if you dislike: a dash of history and politics with your crime.

Ideal accompaniments: A nip of whisky and Steeleye Span’s A Parcel of Rogues

Genre: crime fiction

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