Fans of Rankin’s creation Inspector Rebus were more than disappointed when he retired that character. But his newest creation, Matthew Fox, is proving a strong contender for our interest. First introduced in The Complaints, Fox and his team are called that because they work in the oft-despised area of Internal Affairs. “How come you hate cops so much?” is the question they are often asked.
The Impossible Dead brings readers into close contact with Fox and his team in this second installment, and we’re liking him more and more. Different from Rebus, he has his own tough job, with the team never welcomed. What is supposed to be a temporary assignment leaves Fox wondering how he can meld back into the CID department. Now they’ve been asked to investigate off their home area, in Val McDermid’s turf of Kirkcaldy, and their reception is less than warm. Detective Paul Carter has been found guilty of misconduct, a charge led by his own uncle, retired from the same force. Fox’s team are to clear up allegations that Carter’s colleagues had been covering up for him, turning a blind eye to the sexual favors Carter had supposedly exchanged with a variety of women, from drug addicts to casual offenders, to drop their charges.
But when they arrive to start their interviews, the three men they’ve arranged to see are at not at the station, and Tony Kaye, Fox’s colleague, can’t contain a nasty comment, to Fox’s chagrin. “News would now travel through the station: job done. The Complaints had come to town, found no one home, and let their annoyance show. The desk sergeant shifted his weight from one foot to the other, trying not to seem too satisfied at this turn of events.”
And so it goes: the lack of cooperation; the inadequate office space; the interviewees, when they are finally approached, sullen and uncooperative. There are hints of corruption, and a possible conspiracy, and Fox needs to widen his investigation. Then suddenly a murder occurs, and forensics show the weapon used should not even exist.
This sets off a chain of events that will take Fox back to ties within his own family, and with political connections to the social and politically-charged era of 1985. Fox finds himself following the past, which leads him to a visit the state mental hospital, where a patient with history and information Fox needs will correct his definition of power. “It’s something you hold in both hands like a weapon, something you can choose to use to strike at your enemies’ hearts.”
As Fox’s team concentrate on the current problem, Fox will delve into these buried secrets from the past, flushing out dangerous truths that could ruin reputations and threaten lives, even Fox’s own, and leave him questioning his role as a detective.
This is an intricately-plotted thriller, entangled with subplots involving Fox’s ill father and the damaged relationship he has with his sister. People are not whom they seem on the surface, in small and large ways. Rankin knows crime, and he knows human nature. A thoroughly satisfying read that will leave readers anticipating the next outing with Rankin and Matthew Fox.