Rankin’s New Series: He’s Getting There

In the interests of full disclosure, I must say:  I love Detective Inspector John Rebus.  Rebus is gritty and flawed, but still engaging and crush-worthy.  His daughter.  Siobhan (OMG, when she was in the airplane with the bad guy!).  His frenemy, Big Ger Cafferty.  I even bought the DVD from BBC America (at least the first one, with John Hannah as Rebus.)  Oh, the accents!  So when Ian Rankin wrote the final Rebus novel, I was none too thrilled.

Malcolm Fox is the protagonist in the new series, an inspector in the complaints bureau (think internal affairs).  Fox was introduced in the crime novel, The Complaints, which I thought was a good read.  Malcolm is single (of course), is not too well-liked because of the nature of his job, and has a bossy sister and a father on the edge of Alzheimer’s in a nursing home.  I enjoyed the first book in the series, but didn’t hold my breath waiting for the next one.

And now the next one’s out.  Ian Rankin’s The Impossible Dead features a plot that begins with an allegation of sexual harassment but soon turns into something darker and murkier.  Fox and his colleagues are drawn in, and although some would prefer to take things at face value, Fox can’t leave it alone.  He teams up with Evelyn Mills, a “complaints” type officer from the next town over with whom he has a romantic past (and perhaps future?) to plumb deeper.

The second Fox book moves the series along and makes me more interested in reading more about Fox.  Part of what makes a series engaging is the continued growth of – and the reader’s continuing quest to learn more, to get closer to – the protagonist.  It was true of Rebus, also V.I. Warshawski, Matthew Scudder, Kinsey Milhone, Inspector Morse, Kathy Mallory, and many more.  Even Jack Reacher, as hard as it is to obtain insight, teases us with the promise of more.  While I didn’t find The Impossible Dead to be a “pulse-pounding thriller” (as blurbed online by the publisher) I did find it to be a solid read with the lure of more good stuff to come.  Ian Rankin’s new series is getting there.

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