The Impossible Dead – Ian Rankin

Setting: Fife, Scotland. (Almost as cold as Scandinavia.)

Story: Malcolm Fox and his Professional Standards team (The Complaints) are investigating Paul Carter, a disgraced policeman, to see if he was a lone bad apple, or more of his colleagues need turfed out of the barrel. Never exactly welcomed with open arms, their investigation runs into the usual challenges, but is driven to new heights with a murder of a ‘connected’ person. If that were not bad enough, they unearth suspicions about the near ancient case of accidental death that may not have been much of an accident.

Good Stuff: Rankin excels at building a believable world with credible, interesting, characters and a plot that works; it’s neither fantastic, nor mired in complex conspiracy – just little bits of sad, human life, coming together in tragedy and torment. The author also never loses sight of the need to entertain and involve his readership, so the writing is gilded with touches of humor and insight. The story is well paced, and the police politics kept in its place so the characters can do their bit. While Fox may not be the greatest of the ‘defective detectives’, he is sufficiently troubled to be recognizable as someone trying to their best in a complex world. If Rankin keeps writing more of the series – this is the second, I believe – I would expect Fox to mature to rank alongside Rankin’s near legendary creation, Rebus.

Not So Good Stuff: The author applies a touch too much sweetness and light and saccharine to Fox’s troubles with his ailing father and sister. It may be a ‘feel good’ diversion, but it struck me as being too good to be true. Sometimes the dialogue seemed to be a space filler when the action dipped. Generally, however, I was struggling to find fault.

Score: 8/10