Crime Fiction Alphabet: C is for The Complaints

crime_fiction_alphabetThis week the Crime Fiction Alphabet  is featuring the letter C, which for me is Ian Rankin’s latest book The Complaints. The ‘Complaints’ are the cops who investigate other cops.

Set in Edinburgh in February 2009, Inspector Malcolm Fox works in the the PSU or Professional Standards Unit, part of the Complaints and Conducts office.  The PSU is sometimes called  ‘the Dark Side’,

They sniffed out racism and corruption. They looked at bungs received and blind eyes turned. They were quiet and serious and determined and had as much power as they need in order to do the job. (page 4) …

A lot of cops asked the Complaints the same question: how can you do it? How can you spit on your own kind? These were the officers you’d worked with, or might work with in the future. These were, it was often said, ‘the good guys’. But that was the problem right there – what did it mean to be good? Fox had puzzled over that one himself, staring into the mirror behind the bar as he nursed another soft drink. (page 5)

And there in those two quotes is the nub of this book. Who is the good guy? As Fox, yet another divorced cop with a drink problem, his father in a care home and his sister, Jude, in an abusive relationship, is drawn into an increasingly complex and puzzling investigation he has to work out just who the bad guys are.  He is asked to investigate DS Jamie Breck, a likeable young cop who is allegedly involved in a paedophile site run by an Aussie cop in Melbourne. Then Jude’s partner, Vince is murdered and Breck is the investigating officer. As Fox gets to know him it become increasingly difficult for him to know just who he can trust.

As I read on I grew to really like Fox. He is a good guy, he plays by the rules and looks after his family. He’s bit of a philosopher, an outsider mistrusted and hated by other cops.Then he finds he has to defend his reputation when he himself is accused  of a misdemeanor and comes under suspicion and surveillance. It’s about morality and vice. It’s up-to-date and I was absolutely engrossed in this book from the beginning to the end; one of the best books I’ve read this year. I hope Ian Rankin will write at least one more book featuring Malcolm Fox – and Jamie Breck.

4 thoughts on “Crime Fiction Alphabet: C is for The Complaints

  1. Margaret, good to see your contribution in Crime Fiction Alphabet. I haven’t yet got a copy of COMPLAINTS but yours is the second encouraging review I’ve seen, so I’ll have to consider it. Thanks for participating amongst the packing and the uncertainty of knowing where you are going to be living in just a few weeks. I guess the blogging will help keep you sane (or maybe not).


  2. This is sitting on my shelf for (I hope) the weekend after next. I’m glad you liked it. I couldn’t get on with his last book and wondered if now Rebus has left us I might no longer be a Rankin reader. You give me hope.


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