The Complaints

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Having read Exit Music, been disappointed by Doors Open and headed off to reread the Rebus series in order I'd been quite happy to let The Complaints slip past on the basis that I'd wait and see whether the new character had legs, a policy that lasted roughly as long as it took to hear a Rankin segment on Radio National, decide the new character had promise and bring myself into contact with a hard copy of the story.

The retail copy I found myself dragging home was, predictably, The Impossible Dead rather than The Complaints, which in turn produced the do we read these things in order quandary and scrutiny of the shelves down at the Library that produced the volume pictured above.

It was, I thought, best to work in sequence since I'd heard a bit of background about the character and Rankin's desire to create a completely Rebus-free zone around him.

Well, maybe not quite Rebus free. There could, at some point in the indeterminate future, be an opportunity to bring the two together because Malcolm Fox, working for the Professional Standards Unit at the Lothian and Borders Police, could well end up investigating a matter that has had Rebus involvement.

Professional Standards were, after all, frequently called in to examine aspects of Rebus' career.

As far as the new character was concerned, the aim was to create a non- or anti-Rebus, which Rankin seems to have done by literally listing all the attributes we've come to associate with John Rebus and making Fox the almost diametrical opposite.

Sure, both are divorced, but where Rebus repeatedly sticks his toe in the water Fox isn't up for emotional involvement. There are no children, he's shunted his elderly father off to an expensive retirement home and he's been keeping his sister at arms length due to a combination of her binge drinking and her taking up with an abusive Englishman. His Dad's not that keen on her partner, either, Fox wants Vince Faulkner charged, but sister Judith won't press charges.

Some of that distance comes as a result of Fox's status as a recovering alcoholic, though he's still inclined to visit the bars frequented by his colleagues, drinking Virgin rather than Bloody Marys but not far enough removed from his demons to escape fantasies about the taste of single-malt whisky and the burn of vodka in the back of the throat.

That brings us to the biggest difference between the two characters. While Rebus was quite happy to go off on his own, Fox is working in an environment where he and his colleagues are loathed by their peers and have to work as a team if they'e going to get anywhere.

It's the intrigue that looks to be the driving force behind what could, if the first volume's anything to go by, be a cracker of a series.

As the story starts, Fox has just completed what appears to have been a successful investigation of Glen Heaton, a popular and high-ranking officer,who has allegedly been on the take for years, bending the rules to his advantage and trading favours among a network of criminals while still seeming to maintain a n impressive success rate in his investigations. 


© Ian Hughes 2012