Ian Rankin's crime novels have always been intimately concerned with Edinburgh and its environs, normally through the eyes of his most famous creation, DI Rebus. In the wake of Rebus' retirement, Rankin has created another cop, another member of Lothian and Borders - Colin Fox; but rather than a rule-bender, Fox is one of The Complaints: the men who guard the guards and keep the other cops in line.  This isn't a crime novel, or at any rate, that's only part of the point of The Complaints - that, and not to be Rebus, of course; it's other life is as a thriller, and it works beautifully as both.

The Complaints is defined equally by plot and characters, so we'll cover the latter first, to mix things up a little.  Our primary character is DI Colin Fox, one of the Lothian and Borders PSU; straight up the line, very much a man of the rule-book, Fox over the course of the novel is put through the ringer.  A little bit of a coward at the start, but good with his team, he turns into a man who has to force issues and bring himself to be brave; moving through the plot, Fox becomes a more interesting and more rounded character as he resists his impulses (as a recovering alcoholic) and has to act in ways alien to his character.  The other characters are all equally well fleshed out; they sometimes seem to be rather basic but, as the novel developes, even the simplest characters become more interesting and more rounded, their motives becoming more interesting.  This really does drive the novel well and make it readable...

The complaint about The Complaints is also its greatest strength; it doesn't pull punches.  The Complaints is a dark, grim novel, which really does take on and deal with at full force the corruption of the police, the organised crime in Scotland, and indeed the links between the two; it also doesn't avoid one of the biggest stories of its time of writing (and, for that matter, now) - the beginning of the financial crisis, as banks started to teeter and topple (ironic moments when RBS is referred to, though!).  The plot of the novel begins with Fox being asked to put another police officer under surveillance under suspicion of accessing child pornography, but the real plot is concerned with Fox's sister's boyfriend being murdered.... and Fox is under suspicion, and increasingly a target of his own tactics and team.  The whole plot is brilliantly written, and Rankin creates a complex, incredibly dark world in Edinburgh.

All in all, the crime novel-cum-thriller that is The Complaints is fantastic; Ian Rankin really has created a new character with the potential to be as popular as Rebus himself, and a dark world for him to inhabit.

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Squeaking of the GrimSqueaker....

February 2012

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