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170 of 179 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as Rebus...
I didn't think that Ian Rankin would ever be able to create another character who could compete with Rebus. I was wrong.

The first book in his new series, The Complaints, was good but this second one is even better. As members of the Professional Standards team, Inspector Malcolm Fox and his team are in Fife, looking into possible misconduct in the force there...
Published on 15 Oct 2011 by FictionFan

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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable but not great
I've enjoyed dozens of Ian Rankin's books and felt a pang when the Rebus series finished. However, the arrival of his new detective, Malcolm Fox, in The Complaints filled the gap and heralded a fine new series. To my disappointment, this second book in the new series, is not as good as the first. It is very slow to get going: there are pages and pages of chit-chat...
Published on 31 Oct 2011 by Bluebell


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170 of 179 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as Rebus..., 15 Oct 2011
By 
FictionFan (Kirkintilloch, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
I didn't think that Ian Rankin would ever be able to create another character who could compete with Rebus. I was wrong.

The first book in his new series, The Complaints, was good but this second one is even better. As members of the Professional Standards team, Inspector Malcolm Fox and his team are in Fife, looking into possible misconduct in the force there. When an ex-copper is found dead, Fox becomes aware that he had been looking into an old case - the death of a political activist which at the time had been classed as a suicide. Now Fox and his team have two cases on their hands.

One of the things I like most about Rankin is the way he sets his books firmly in the real world. With references to actual events and people, his plots become entirely convincing. He tells modern Scotland like it is - neither all good nor all bad. The short period in the eighties when Scottish nationalism turned briefly into terrorism is used for the main strand of the book. Rankin shows the contrast of those days, when fervent nationalists felt the democratic process held no hope for them, to the Scotland of today, with its devolved government, more confident and comfortable in its skin, with nationalism a question to be debated rather than won by force.

Malcolm Fox is turning into just as interesting a character as Rebus, if less of a maverick. Working in the Complaints, he has to face the obstruction and sometimes contempt of fellow officers, but he believes in what he's doing and wants to do it well. This time though a comment of his father makes him wonder if he has what it takes to investigate a real crime and that doubt acts as a spur to him to step outside his normal boundaries. In this book we also get to know more about his colleagues, Kaye and Naysmith. The interactions between them come over as convincing and enjoyable - three team players working well together. Fox's relationships with his father and sister are further developed and this glimpse into his life outside work makes him into a more rounded and believable character.

I'm delighted to hear that Rankin may bring Rebus back to us but I sincerely hope that Malcolm Fox is here for a long run too. Highly recommended.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seamless transition, 23 Oct 2011
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Readers were first introduced to DI Malcolm Fox in a previous Rebus story (The Complaints, 2009).

Ian Rankin has made a seamless transition over to this new protagonist and with the author's usual easy writing style has come up trumps with a well developed character that will no doubt enthrall readers in an exciting series of tales.

Malcolm Fox is an intriguing mix of apathy and action; he is a solid character, single, drives a Volvo & doesn't drink alcohol any more, just sticking to water or Appletiser.

These stories see police procedurals from a different perspective - Rebus often broke the rules whereas Fox enforces them. He heads up a team in the Professional Standards Unit, more commonly known as 'The Complaints' of Lothian and Borders Police, the cops who investigate other cops. His cohorts in this story are DS Tony Kaye and DC Joe Naysmith.

Fox is quoted as stating: 'Maybe I want to make sure the {police} force is on the side of the angels.' For Malcolm Fox, the appeal of the Complaints was its focus on rules broken rather than bones, on cops who crossed the line but were not violent men.

Readers are taken on a journey through Edinburgh, Stirling, St Andrews and Fife - even to the State Mental Hospital at Carstairs in Lanark - as Fox and his team is asked to investigate three colleagues from the neighbouring Fife constabulary.

In the background, Fox struggles with the dilemma of balancing his work duties alongside appeasing his sister's frustration at the time and resources needed to care for their elderly father's illness.

As the story progresses, Fox is drawn into looking at the suspicious death of lawyer and nationalist Francis Vernal who was found dead in his car having crashed on a country road in Fife. There was also a gunshot wound to his head and the incident had never been fully investigated when it occurred some twenty years earlier in 1985. This part of the story bears striking resemblances to the non fictional case of nationalist Willie MacRae whose death occurred in the Highlands in 1985 in similar circumstances.

Rankin's writings are ever topical and the plot reflects the SNP and its activities in the mid 80's - perhaps especially pertinent at the moment, as the SNP party has just staged its first conference in Inverness this weekend.

EDIT: ** PLEASE SEE FictionFan's excellent comment on this review - she has kindly clarified the inaccuracies in my sentence above. **

The author's excellent descriptive skills are used to advantage to develop the personalities of his characters as well as eloquently taking readers on a journey through central Scotland.

I enjoyed this story immensely and I'm sure others will to. Rebus can surely sit back and relish his retirement!
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49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Readable but not great, 31 Oct 2011
By 
Bluebell (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Impossible Dead (Hardcover)
I've enjoyed dozens of Ian Rankin's books and felt a pang when the Rebus series finished. However, the arrival of his new detective, Malcolm Fox, in The Complaints filled the gap and heralded a fine new series. To my disappointment, this second book in the new series, is not as good as the first. It is very slow to get going: there are pages and pages of chit-chat between Fox and his two side-kicks, Kaye and Naysmith, with descriptions of journeys around Fife, the scenery as they drive to and from Edinburgh and their problems over police inter-departmental friction. Yet, with all this descriptive stuff I never really get a picture in my mind of Fox who is two-dimensional, in contrast to Rebus, who is so clearly pictured in my mind by the books that when Ken Stott appeared in the TV series he was perfect. In the first book in the new series I welcomed the fact that Fox wasn't the usual hard-drinking, smoking stereotype of most detective series, but I don't feel his character has been developed enough for the reader to identify with him in his quests for truth.

Only when one gets well into the book does the action begin and then it goes off into all sorts of tangents: terrorism, police corruption, MI5, under-cover police activity, murder, suicide plus diversions into Fox's stormy relationship with his sister and worries over his father's deteriorating health. Having been a bit bored by the first half of the book I became confused over the plethora of story-lines in the latter part of the novel.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Other Scotlands were available, 3 Nov 2011
By 
D. Harris (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Impossible Dead (Hardcover)
In The Complaints Rankin introduced his new detective, Inspector Malcolm Fox, who has his second outing in "The Impossible Dead". I struggled there not to write "his new, post Rebus detective..." and really feel I ought to review the book in it's own terms and not mention the previous series. It's hard though. It seems that in many respects Fox is constructed as a not-Rebus - teetotal (albeit with a less sober past), less of a loner, a policeman who, as part of The Complaints, investigates the Rebuses of this work. Ignoring that seems to miss the point. Also, to construct a compelling story - which this is - Rankin has to take Fox on a little trip to... well not perhaps Rebusland, but somewhere close. After all, the obedient, rule following policeman doesn't tend to engage in the kind of confrontations - against superiors, authority, procedure or villains - that make for a page turning crime novel.

So here we have Fox and his team making slow progress across the river in Fife with a routine case involving low level corruption and cover-ups, when a murder happens. Although it is only tenuously connected to their own case, and is out of their Force's area, Fox bends his enquiry beyond breaking point to follow up the murder, eventually taking in a mysterious death twenty five years before, gun running, Scottish terrorism in the 80s, and much more. The story goes at a breakneck pace with the villain confronted in a dramatic climax. All great fun, even if the ending seems unlikely (more so, actually, than most of the Rebus stories). And some genuinely interesting thoughts about the recent Scottish past, and the half familiar, half strange world of the 1980s whose atmosphere of paranoia is a key part of the background to this book.

However, I wasn't sure whether, with Fox, Rankin is going to be able to go on having his cake and eating it much longer. The sort of behaviour that Fox gets away with in this book, with only the occasional slap on the wrist, was sort-of credible for an edgy loner like Rebus, but Fox is in the spotlight, in a role where he must, like Ceasar's wife, be above suspicion. Either he's in the wrong job and will soon be out of the Complaints, or it will get more and more difficult to suspend belief enough to enjoy these stories - which would be a pity, so I hope that Rankin takes the other course and lets Fox become the detective he seems to want to be.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rankin treads water, 24 April 2012
By 
Jl Adcock "John Adcock" (Ashtead UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Impossible Dead (Hardcover)
With the Malcolm Fox novels, Ian Rankin is exploring pretty much the same territory as he did with John Rebus, but from slightly different perspectives. We're still in Fife, still exploring what happens when politics and crime mix, and also still looking at the corruption that goes on inside the police and the consequences of this.

The Impossible Dead is readable enough, and certainly reminds of you of why Rankin is top of the list at this sort of thing: his dialogue is sharp and polished, gritty enough to sound like film script material, and witty enough to keep the pages turning at a fast rate.

But beneath this, there isn't that much going on that's new and exciting. Fox is a toned down Rebus; a man who doesn't drink, and who has family issues to juggle with his pressurised and often unpopular job. And, like Rebus, Fox encounters career politicians and coppers, and manages to rub them up the wrong way in his search for justice and fairness. To all intents and purposes, these are Rebus re-treads.

After a fairly complex and involved storyline here, featuring shady dealings from 1985 and the search for Scottish independence through violent means, it's something of a surprise and let down that the book ends with a rather rushed, shoot 'em up finale that doesn't quite fit with what's gone before. A little bit unlikely to be honest.

The Impossible Dead feels like Ian Rankin is treading water a little. The book is much better than the first non-Rebus title he came out with (Doors Open) - but Rebus is still leaving quite a big hole in need of filling, even though Fox is a strongish character on which another series seems to be unfolding.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A believable character in Fox but misplaced in his role, 20 Feb 2012
By 
Richard Latham (Burton on Trent) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Impossible Dead (Hardcover)
I was looking forward to this second outing for Fox and the Complaints team. The premise though just doesn't work and the early exchanges are the same cliched response of cops dislike the other cops investigating their own. However, the germ of the real story is excellent and shows Rankin at his best it is just hung off the wrong peg. Much to enjoy and a fast final 100 pages will not disappoint you, with excellent character development leading one to hope the series will continue. Fox though is too good a detective to remain in Complaints and the nuances of that line of work have been exhausted. Rankin must decide to either write stand alone novels or reposition Fox so he can grow and prosper in a credible back-story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful plotting and characterisation, 28 Aug 2014
By 
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Impossible Dead (Paperback)
Given the number of books about Inspector John Rebus, and that policeman’s loyal following, the creation of Ian Rankin’s new police investigator, Inspector Malcolm Fox of Complaints and Conduct, soon to become Professional Ethics and Standards [‘Next year they’d be something else again, the name Standards and Values had been mooted to nobody’s liking.’], must have been a considerable gamble.

In this second investigation, Fox and his colleagues, Sergeant Tony Kaye and Constable Joe Naysmith, from the Lothian and Borders Force, go to the small town of Kirkcaldy to look into the case of DC Paul Carter, found guilty of corrupt behaviour. It seems that Carter’s police colleagues may have, in the words of the sherriff, been ‘either willfully stupid or willfully complicit’.
Given this background, the team’s reception in Kirkaldy is unsurprising, its members being regarded as sneaks and spies by all levels of the local force. They are also perceived as foreigners from beyond the Kingdom of Fife.

The case is complicated by the fact that it was Carter’s uncle, himself a retired policeman, who made the original complaint against the detective. Before long there is a first death, which may or may not be suspicious, and Fox finds drawn into examining the unexplained death of a charismatic lawyer, Francis Vernal, suspected of being the banker for pro-separatist Scottish terrorists in the mid-1980s. Vernal was found in a crashed car, shot in the head, but investigations into the case seemed to have been mysteriously side-lined. There was a particular interest in reading this book in the weeks before Scotland’s Referendum.

Readers of Rankin’s earlier books will be ready for the detailed plotting and characterisation, and the crackling dialogue. Fox, although much younger than Rebus, has some similarities. He operates in a violent world, is a loner, divorced, once drank too heavily [but is now teetotal], is not constrained by rules and regulations [although recognising that such action conflicts with his Complaints role], and must be near impossible to manage. However, he is much less charismatic than Rebus and arrives at a final understanding of the case through hard slog.

However, Rankin has cleverly constructed Fox’s personal life to include a jealous sibling, Jude, and a confused father, Mitch, which allows a great deal of back story to be introduced and issues of family responsibility and concern for the increasingly frail to be addressed. This strand of the story takes on greater weight as the book proceeds. Fox, Kaye and Naysmith are a complementary professional family, with the relationship between the first two and the latter, who is much younger, being particularly well drawn.

The Scottish rural and urban backgrounds are well integrated into the story, looking out over the Firth of Forth from Kirkaldy, Fox noted ‘something odd about the design of the waterfront; almost no use had been made of it. Buildings tended to face away from the view and towards the town centre. Fox had noticed this elsewhere in Scotland; from Fort William to Dundee, the planners seemed to deny the existence of any shoreline. He’d never understood it, but doubted Kaye and Naysmith would be able to help.’ Such social insights abound.

There is mention of policemen eating, microwaved ready-meals for Fox at home and scones and other delicacies at The Pancake Place, although these are not on quite the same gastronomic level as enjoyed by the police described by Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri.

There is something of a disconnect between the rather leisurely pace of the first half of the book and its increasingly dramatic later stages. Some of the characters, notably a senior female policewoman with a past, are less successful but, overall, the many-layered descriptions of Fox’s professional colleagues, enemies and family reinforce Rankin’s reputation for first-rate characterisation.

I look forward to seeing how Rankin will manage to bring together Rebus and Fox in his next book, ‘Standing in Another Man's Grave’. Despite Fox’s many merits, at this stage it doesn’t quite seem to be a balanced contest.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Long Slo-Go That Didn't Interest Me, 29 July 2014
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Impossible Dead (Paperback)
THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD, 2011, is the second in the new Inspector Malcolm Fox series by the outstanding, award-winning, author Ian Rankin, currently the best-selling author of British mysteries in the United Kingdom. Rankin, of course, is best known for his now 20-book Detective Inspector John Rebus series. The novel at hand can, like most of the writer's work, best be described as a police procedural, within the tartan noir school that is set within and around the Scottish capital city, and tourist magnet, Edinburgh.

Fox, of course, works in the police department known locally as the Complaints, the name given to Internal Affairs officers that investigate dirty cops. And sometimes even the Complaints must travel. So, in THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD, a major inquiry into a neighboring police force sees Fox and his colleagues cast adrift, unsure of territory, protocol, or who they can trust. Seemingly, an entire station-house has been compromised. Moreover, as Fox digs deeper he finds the trail leads him back in time to the eventful, turbulent 1980s, when the desire for independence from the United Kingdom in Scotland was felt strongly again for the first time in centuries. There are secrets buried in the past, to do with the suicide or possible murder of a prominent lawyer/politician/activist. And modern day reputations are on the line. Mind you, this reader was never sure how Fox went from an internal affairs investigation to what must be considered a cold case investigation, unless Rankin has endowed this creation, like his well-loved Rebus, with an inability to follow orders and stay within the dotted lines.

The book is written with Rankin's unflagging power, wit and energy, crackling with sharp descriptions of Scotland, its capital, its people, diet, social life and weather. He tells us that the Scots have a word for the kind of weather which they enjoy (?) so much, misty, with a light rain: they call it "smirr." And he gives us his -and Rebus's - capital city with all its warts. The east coast Edinburgh is more or less Rankin's home town, as it is Rebus's and Fox's; in comparison to the west coast Glasgow, it's a more beautiful, smaller city, the capital of the country, where you might expect the crime to be white collar, rather than blue, and bloody.

James Ellroy, American author of L.A. Confidential, has dubbed Rankin the progenitor - and king--of tartan noir. But, just what's tartan noir when it's at home, you ask? A bloodthirsty, bloody-minded business, to be sure, more violent than the average British mystery, but, thankfully, leavened a bit with that dark Scots humor. Written, to be sure, by Scots.

Rankin was nominated for an Edgar Award for BLACK AND BLUE: AN INSPECTOR REBUS MYSTERY,for which he won England's prestigious Gold Dagger Award. He was born in the Kingdom of Fife in 1960, and graduated from the University of Edinburgh. His official bio states that he's been employed as grape-picker, swineherd, taxman, hi-fi journalist, and punk musician. His first Rebus novel KNOTS AND CROSSES was published in 1987. I've loved his work since the first: I've read every one of the Rebus series now, including his last, the twentieth, STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN'S GRAVE. Have reviewed many on their Amazon websites: BLACK AND BLUE, DEAD SOULS, DEATH IS NOT THE END, EXIT MUSIC, FLESHMARKET ALLEY, A GOOD HANGING, MORTAL CAUSES, NAMING OF THE DEAD, RESURRECTION MEN, SET IN DARKNESS, and STANDING IN ANOTHER MANS GRAVE. I even have a couple of his volumes autographed. But I'm really a crazed fan of his: I even once went to Edinburgh for the express purpose of touring around the sites of some of his novels.

Never have read the first in the Fox series, THE COMPLAINTS. However, I found THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD a disappointment. Long. Slo-go. Never could get really interested in either the internal affairs case or the cold case. And the book's conclusion is way over the top television. Now doubt that I ever will read THE COMPLAINTS. And sorry, but I can't recommend this crime novel.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still some way to go with this developing Foxy, 31 Oct 2011
By 
trishthedish (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Impossible Dead (Hardcover)
I sent for this book pre-publication as have read all of Rankin's previous work and looked forward to reading it. I would say (and it almost hurts me to say this) that I was a little disappointed with it. I just never felt the plot had much bite to it, it seemed slightly bitty and confused at times. I do think the character of Fox is developing slowly and you can almost feel Rankin working this out sometimes on the page! The relationship with his sister though, is very well drawn and only too believable. To be honest, I think a lot of this is because Rankin takes chances in his work, pushing himself than staying in a cosy corner with Rebus, for instance. I've heard it said before, that some find his work variable in standard. Actually, I would think its probably down to this risk taking factor. All artists have to push themselves to go forward and the "birth" process can be difficult. Rebus took a while to get off, and the books became better with time as the character developed and the plots became more believable. I would still rather that an intelligent author do this than not, its still a pleasant read, just probably not his best.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and not up to normal standard., 14 Jan 2012
By 
A. D. Fisher (Whitley Bay, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Impossible Dead (Hardcover)
I am sorry to say the above, as I have read and enjoyed all of Ian Rankin's books until this one(he is one of my favourite authors). I unfortunately have to agree with the more negative reviews on this site. It was an effort to finish this book.

Normally I finish a Rankin book within a day or two, this one took about two weeks. I just could not engage with the plot or the characters. I felt the author was just going through the motions. The story plodded along with little action and in the end I could not care less what happened to any of the characters.

That said, I had no problem with the Fox character in 'The Complaints' and quite enjoyed that book, though it was not a 4-5 star book, but had potential for the future, or so I thought. I am sure that if you have never read a previous Rankin book then you would probably enjoyed this one, however, this book does not compare to the same standard.
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The Impossible Dead
The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin (Paperback - 24 May 2012)
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