In the United States this department is called I.A. or Internal Affairs. The Complaints Department deals with the force and any suspicions against them. No one in the Police Force particularly likes Complaints. They are seen as snitching and snooping on those who keep the peace. This is Ian Rankin’s first story after his enormously successful Detective Rebus’ retirement. He wrote those in chronological order and retired him when he would have been of age. So now we meet Malcolm Fox. His job is to investigate fellow officers.
I didn’t know how I would feel about a different hero being such a huge Rebus fan, but Fox is quite brill. Obviously intelligent but also up to date on investigating. This story starts with the culmination of a case for Fox. He has finally brought enough evidence against a dirty cop and he is ready for his next assignment. Unfortunately he is sent to vice for a briefing about a cop suspected of using child pornography. As the story evolves we are introduced to Fox’s sister who is in an abusive relationship with a man she swears she loves. What a position for a policeman to be in; stand by and watch your sister get beaten up or do something about it. Of course, she won’t press charges. To add to Fox’s stress level is his father who is living in an old people’s home. He is doing well but is not completely aware of his daughter and her lifestyle.
The Complaints Department that Fox works for only has four employees. They keep things pretty tight to their chests and have very few friends throughout the rest of the police force. As is usual for colleagues, they know a lot about each other’s lives. Malcolm’s work mates are concerned about his sister as well and encourage him to think of how to remedy her situation. The story escalates dramatically when the boyfriend of the sister turns up dead. She is, of course, suspected due to the violence and her sporting a broken arm thanks to the victim. Malcolm is supposed to back off completely and not have anything to do with her case but realistically who can honestly say they will do nothing. To add insult to injury, one of the officers on her case is someone the complaints may be investigating. The plot does get stickier and stickier.
There are many different levels to this story but Rankin never leaves us out in the cold trying to remember which character is which. We meet quite a few nasty bastards and Fox gets into some very scary situations. To be honest I hope they televise these as they have done with Rebus – I think they would be great. You can imagine the Scottish underworld skulking around the back streets of Edinburgh in the wee hours. Anyway enough said – great book!