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The Complaints by Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin is the well known British author of the Inpector Rebus series and other novels.  The Complaints introduces a new character, Inspector Malcolm Fox.  The second Fox novel caught my eye on the list of new arrivals on the online catalog, and I decided to read the first one before I read the second one.  Overall, this is a good mystery with old fashioned detective work--gathering of information and following the threads of connections until the true story emerges.  In a way it feels like this kind of story--one where the main character's career is targeted for a take down as part of a deal to make something else go away--that comes later in a series rather than right out of the gate in the first book.  But no matter: it makes for a compelling read.

The setting is the gritty city of Edinburgh, Scotland, in the early months of 2009 while the city is in the midst of the real estate bust and teetering toward an economic downturn.  These developments play into the plot mechanism of the story itself.

Malcolm Fox is with the Complaints and Conduct division, referred to (and despised) by other cops as the Complaints.  This is the division that investigates other cops accused of corruption and other unsavory deeds.  Here in the U.S. its equivalent is often called Internal Affairs.

Fox is asked to help 'the Chop Shop,' the division that investigates cyber crimes involving sex trafficking and child pornography rings, gather intelligence and surveillance on a young, up and coming detective named Jamie Breck.  Breck was recently discovered to have a tenuous connection to an international, online child exploitation ring, and before long Fox is sucked into a much more complex investigation compromised by a seemingly unrelated incident that threatens both Fox's and Breck's careers.

Just after Fox begins checking out Breck, Fox's sister's abusive boyfriend turns up dead at a condo development site.  By coincidence Breck is assigned the case, thus complicating Fox's involvement in the Chop Shop inquiry into Breck.  As the homicide investigation progresses with few leads, Fox is targeted by Breck's superior, Billy Giles, who is an embittered friend of another cop recently suspended and soon to be indicted as the result of one of Fox's investigations.  Meanwhile, Fox and Breck walk a dangerous line as Breck allows Fox more access and involvement in the homicide investigation in which Fox himself is a person of interest, and thus, should steer clear of.  When Giles has the slightest excuse to get Fox suspended, he takes it, resulting in the suspensions of both Fox and Breck pending further inquiry.

Both left with time on their hands, Fox and Breck decide not to leave well enough alone and instead team up to continue their own investigation into the murder which is eventually linked to disappearing-presumed-dead developers with ties to organized crime.  The deeper Fox and Breck delve into these mysteries and the timing of the investigations into both them and the murder and the links to the timing of a previous investigation's wrap up, the more everything stinks of a set up with Fox and Breck manipulated to be the fall guys.  This all begs the questions: how far up the chain of command at headquarters does the corruption and conspiracy go?  Who can they trust?  And can they even trust each other?

Mystery fans will enjoy the serpentine twists of this story, and I recommend you check it out the next time you visit the library.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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