Ian Rankin is a master at creating characters. His law enforcement heroes are men we learn to accept despite their shortcomings. They brood through Edinburgh never truly understood by their colleagues and loved ones, and even when they catch the bad guy, true justice (like their peace of mind) is an elusive thing. And so it makes sense that Rankin would write a book where character and morality are the driving factors, as he does in The Complaints.
Malcolm Fox is the lead investigator of The Complaints Department, Scotland’s version of Internal Affairs. He’s a bearish man weighed down by himself and a life that includes a sick father, ex-wife, and a sister in an abusive marriage. Fox’s teetotaling is more about the knowledge of his demons than a lack of them. If the BBC ever decides to adapt the book, Ray Winstone needs to get to his agent.
The current copper Fox has under surveillance is Jamie Breck, a gregarious younger man who spends much of his free time with an avatar computer game. He is also connected to a pedophile ring. The investigation becomes complicated when Fox’s brother-in-law is murdered and Breck is put on the case, a move which could be more than coincidence.
Rankin deftly uses the plot, connected with how gangsters are affected by the current economy, to look at perception of character and the gray areas of morality. When introduced to us, Malcolm Fox is the flawed but decent man in the mold of his Inspector Rebus character and Breck is a charming, Teflon sociopath. As Fox gets to know Breck, he begins to like him. As more is known about Fox, we begin to wonder about him. The characters reflect the corruption of the institutions they deal with, with the only hope being individual morality.
Ian Rankin will be joining us for a discussion and signing of The Complaints on Sunday, March 20th at 3pm. This is one the best books by one of crime fictions best authors. I hope you can join us.
– Scott Montgomery, MysteryPeople Coordinator