The Impossible Dead

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Impossible Dead.jpg

It takes a special kind of cop to work effectively in Internal Affairs, the Office of Complaints and Conduct, Professional Ethics and Standards, Standards and Values or whatever label the authorities in your part of the world have tagged the internal investigators Ian Rankin calls The Complaints.

For a start, every case, regardless of how humble it may look on the surface, has the potential to reach upwards into the highest echelons of the force in question.

At the start of The Impossible Dead Edinburgh-based Inspector Malcolm Fox and his colleagues Sergeant Tony Kaye and Constable Joe Naysmith arrive in Fife to interview three police officers after suggestions Detective Paul Carter, who has been found guilty of extorting sex from women he's arrested and is awaiting sentencing, has been protected by his colleagues in the small coastal town of Kirkcaldy,

It’s the sort of allegation that’s going to be fairly inevitable in such cases, and it’s equally inevitable that the crooked cop’s colleagues are going to resent the investigation, so, predictably, Fox and his team run into the usual hostility and lack of co-operation from the local Constabulary. Par for the course (and, while we’re referencing golf, they’re not far from St Andrews).  As Fox and company arrive in Kirkcaldy, they are stonewalled by Kirkcaldy's entire detective force. The three men they have come to interview, DI Scholes, DS Haldane, and DS Michaelson, are on duty or unavailable due to illness.

In a way, you get the feeling all this becomes a bit of a game.

When the Complaints arrive, they're going to walk in expecting the antagonism from their fellow officers. Scholes, Haldane, and Michaelson are close friends of Carter’s and have more than likely covered up for him in the line of duty. When they arrive the Desk Sergeant may not be able to let them in, there may be no rooms available to work from, whatever facilities they are offered will be substandard, insecure or inconveniently located,whoever’s in charge will be away from the office attending meetings and the interviews they want to arrange will run up against all sorts of obstacles.

Faced with the predictable not quite passive resistance, Fox’s team set out to do their jobs. With Kaye and Naysmith assigned to chase up the interviews they’re supposed to be doing Fox heads off to talk to the person who reported Carter. The complainant, as it turns out was Carter’s uncle Alan, a retired police officer who now operates a security business and lives in isolated Gallowhill Cottage with his aged border collie, Jimmy Nicholl.

Fox’s team also talk to Teresa Collins, the woman who originally testified against Paul Carter, but news Carter has been released on bail causes Collins to cut her wrists. Then Alan Carter is found dead at his kitchen table, surrounded by papers relating to a cold case from 1985 with a pistol that had theoretically been destroyed by the police beside him. It looks like suicide until Fox points out a few inconvenient details.

Sure, it might be suicide, but the gun is in the wrong hand, and a dog lover would have arranged something for an aged and infirm border collie, wouldn’t he?

Given the fact that Paul Carter is out on bail, has a fairly obvious motive, made the last phone call his uncle received before he died and was seen driving in the area he becomes the obvious suspect.

The crux of the matter turns out to be the cold case Alan Carter was investigating. A lawyer named Francis Vernal was killed in a suspicious car accident, his death wasn’t properly investigated, and his widow (whose health is failing) wants some questions answered before she dies. She has persuaded an old friend to hire Alan Carter to revisit the circumstances surrounding his death.


© Ian Hughes 2012