Simon McDonald's Reviews > The Impossible Dead

The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin
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's review
Mar 19, 2012

really liked it
Read in January, 2012

The complexity of Ian Rankin's The Impossible Dead is astounding - for all the right reasons.

What begins as a seemingly simple affair - Malcom Fox and his Internal Affairs colleagues, dubbed the Complaints, investigate allegations made about Detective Paul Carter - quickly descends into the past and, oninously for Fox, a terrorist group that was part of the Scottish Nationalist movement back in the 80s. Rankin ties the various threads together perfectly; he's a veteran of the contemporary crime novel now, and flawlessly combines plot expansion with character development, and it's credit to the author that Malcom Fox stands so far apart from the legendary John Rebus. Like Rebus, Fox is an outsider on the force, but for entirely different reasons, and assuming the series continues into a third novel, it will be interesting to see how Rankin handles Fox's concern over the merit of his function with the complaints.

The one flaw with the novel is the medical emergency that suddenly strikes Fox's father, Mitch; it's the one element that felt slightly manufactured, and an uncessary addition to the overall plot. Of course, this is serial fiction - certainly a standalone central story, but these characters will leave and breathe in the future, and perhaps Mitch's ailment will have future effects, which I may well praise and credit Rankin for in hindsight.

Regardless, one slight qualm can't quash The Impossible Dead's MUST READ status. This is Ian Rankin at his finest; he's not reinventing the wheel here, he's simply refining the art he masters with each addition to his library.
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