Reagan Arthur Books, March 2011
This new novel by Ian Rankin is what is hoped is the first in a new series, introducing Inspector Malcolm Fox. It must be said without further ado that John Rebus, declared by the author to have made his last appearance in print [newly published, that is], will be sorely missed. But his new protagonist promises to be equally splendid and sure to quickly find a place in the hearts of Mr. Rankin‘s myriad fans.
There are many similarities between the two Edinburgh cops, among these a history of drinking and a broken marriage. Fox has been five years dry; he has a father in a care home, and a sister in what can best be described as an abusive relationship, both being important in his life, but the latter becoming central to his job. He has worked for the past 4-1/2 years for the Complaints and Conduct department of Lothian & Borders Police, more particularly the Professional Standards Unit, referred to variously as The Complaints or, more informally, The Dark Side, the equivalent of the Internal Affairs Bureau in the US, cops who investigate other cops. The “other cops” tend to look at those in The Complaints with disdain, and Fox is told at one point “Stick to watching the detectives, Malcolm. Let us other cops do the real work.”
Fox’s nickname was “Foxy,” “but he didn’t think of himself that way. ‘A bear of a man’ – that’s the way one of his previous bosses had described him. Slow but steady, and only occasionally to be feared.” The supporting cast in the current book includes colleagues Tony Kaye and Joe Naysmith, CID head “Bad Billy” Giles, DCS Adam Traynor, and DC Gilchrist and DS Annie Inglis, both with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Dept. [CEOP]. Fox is assigned to assist CEOP in its investigation of a suspected paedophile within CID, of one of whose members he had just successfully concluded an investigation. But a conflict of interest develops when that same suspect heads an investigation of a murder very close to home. Fox finds there is more than one person in his circle who may not be what [s]he seems, and as things go on he doesn’t know who he can trust.
The book jacket describes the novel is “an inquiry into personal morality, private vice, friendship, and the state of the nation.” A grand claim, perhaps, but no less true for that. Just as wonderful a read as the author’s previous novels, Rebus or otherwise, it is highly recommended, and I say without hesitation “Welcome Malcolm Fox!”
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, May 2011.