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The Complaints by Ian Rankin

Lovers of crime fiction will already be very familiar the great Ian Rankin – he published his first novel in 1987 featuring Inspector John Rebus, who’s become quite a beloved figure to Rankin’s many fans.

Given that he’s won numerous awards around the world, including the most prestigious award for writers in this genre, it was quite a bold move on Rankin’s part to decide to retire Rebus at the end of his last novel, Exit Music.

The Complaints, is of interest not only as a fresh book from Rankin, who is known for producing work of a very high and suspenseful standard, but also as just the second novel from Rankin since the retirement of Rebus

In this case, our hero is Inspector Malcolm Fox of the Edinburgh police – he works in the Complaints and Conduct Department, colloquially known as ‘The Complaints’.

This is known as the dark side of the police force – the officers in The Complaints spend their time investigating other cops and sniffing out corruption and malfeasance and general bad behaviour, and as a result other police tend to take a pretty dim view and keep them at arm’s length.

When the novel starts, Malcolm and his team are enjoying the success of a long investigation into a fellow officer, Glen Heaton, who has been on the grift for a long time and is finally having to face the music.

Meanwhile in his personal life Malcolm is financially responsible for the care of his aging father Mitch, and he has a complicated relationship with his sister, Jude – they’re quite close as siblings, but Jude has a violent partner called Vince Faulkner, and keeps making excuses for him and denying the fact that he’s beating her up, which is understandably very distressing for Malcolm, who for his part has overcome a battle with the bottle.

As the Heaton case is being tied up, Malcolm is called in to investigate another officer, a younger man by the name of Jamie Breck, whose name and credit card number have popped up in connection with an internet child pornography ring.

Just as Malcolm is starting his enquiries, guess who turns up murdered? None other than Vince Faulkner, and the lead officer on the murder enquiry is Jamie Breck – Malcolm, of course, has his own interest here, and he and Jamie get to know each other and form a friendship.

As they do so, they both start to question whether their being brought together was a coincidence, or whether they are somehow being set up by people who have a vested interest in ending their careers.

There are clearly some extremely powerful forces at work here, and the book is very much set in the recession – there are some complex financial issues and illegalities driving the action, and along the way we meet some really sinister and psychopathic underworld figures.

It’s really a thrilling ride, and very well put together and unpredictable as a story, so it’s classic Rankin, and I expect his legions of fans will warm to Malcolm Fox just as they did to Rebus.

This review previously appeared on

Reviewer: Stephanie Jones

Published by Hachette

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