three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
53-July-Aug-2011
By: 
Ian Rankin
user_rating: 
0

missing imageIn Exit Music (2007), Ian Rankin's legendary John Rebus retired from Edinburgh's Lothian and Borders police force after 17 novels. With The Complaints and the introduction of Inspector Malcolm Fox, an internal-affairs investigator, Rankin proves that he's still at the top of his game.

The Story: Inspector Malcolm Fox of Edinburgh's Complaints and Conduct Department--"The Complaints," for short--investigates his colleagues for a living--no easy task. After a high-profile bust, Fox, a reformed alcoholic with a knack for running afoul of both departmental regulations and various unsavory characters, is tasked with looking into the involvement of Detective Sergeant Jamie Breck in a pedophile ring. The two become uneasy acquaintances, though when Breck begins working a case involving the murdered boyfriend of Fox's sister--and Fox himself becomes a suspect in the killing--ethical boundaries blur, and questions come faster than answers.
Reagan Arthur Books. 448 pp. $24.99. ISBN: 9780316039741.

Guardian (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Readers who are still suffering from Rebus deprivation are likely to be heartened by the arrival of a cop who shows every sign of being as eminently suitable as his successor. ... Rankin is a master at what, for me, is one of the important aspects of a crime novel: the integration of setting, plot, characters and a theme which, for Rankin, is the moral dimension never far from his writing." P. D. James

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 of 5 Stars
"The events that follow are complex and compelling, a plot masterfully spun by the prolific Ian Rankin, who matches the elements that have marked the novels of his successful Inspector Rebus series. ... Mr. Rankin never lets the reader down for a single page." Robert Croan

South FL Sun-Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"The Complaints shows Rankin in top form in his sturdy creation of Malcolm and Jamie. Their burgeoning friendship develops realistically as the two men use the instincts that have served them well as cops. ... Rebus, presumably, is spending time in his local pub, perhaps bugging former colleagues in the squad. Meanwhile, Edinburgh is in good hands with Malcolm and Jamie. We hope to see them again." Oline H. Cogdill

Spectator (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"The Complaints is a substantial and satisfying novel with the skilfully orchestrated narrative that Rankin does so well. ... The novel unfolds against a sharply observed contemporary Edinburgh--the credit meltdown, a crooked property developer and traffic jams all play a part." Andrew Taylor

Telegraph (UK) 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Fox is a nuanced character, bookish but streetwise, long teetotal after verging on alcoholism, haunted by guilt about the violence he once inflicted on his ex-wife; he is less vibrantly drawn than Rebus but perhaps even more interesting. ... Only those who hoped this remarkable author might take the opportunity to try something a bit different will be disappointed." Jake Kerridge

Times (UK) 3.5 of 5 Stars
Rankin juggles the interlocking stories with his customary tight control and, as ever, he's convincingly contemporary in the social and political background of his plots. ... The Complaints is in no sense a disappointment [after the Rebus novels], but it lacks that added spark that would make Rankin's post-Rebus career as scintillating as what came before." Marcel Berlins

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
"Even for Rankin, who lives to obfuscate, this is a dense and complicated plot, featuring desperate mobsters and the crooked cops who would like to help them out. But it's a good introduction to the sober Fox and his younger partner, Jamie Breck, a master player of a computer game Rankin has whimsically named Quidnunc." Marilyn Stasio

Critical Summary

One of the most difficult choices a successful writer makes is to move on from a popular character--particularly a crime icon like Ian Rankin's John Rebus. As Marcel Berlins puts it, "The Complaints is the book by which we can start judging [Rankin's] afterlife." No pressure there. And while Malcolm Fox likely will never supplant Rebus in readers' minds, Rankin rises to the challenge with a generous helping of his unreserved passion for the gritty vitality of Edinburgh and characters complex and interesting enough to sustain a series. Applaud Rankin for taking the plunge, and settle in for the second act.