The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin

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The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin

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Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The second book in the D I Malcolm Fox series is as good as the first. It's brilliant, tightly-plotted and I never once thought about John Rebus. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: October 2011
Publisher: Orion
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0752889535

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When it started it all seemed so simple. A constable in CID had been found guilty of, er, pressing his attentions on young women who came his way in the course of the job. Just to make certain that it wasn't a wider problem the Professional Standards Unit (or whatever it was being called this week) from another force was asked to investigate three officers who might have been overly supportive of the miscreant. Then an ex-policeman was shot by a weapon which couldn't exist and from there it all got, well, rather messy and in the middle of it all was Inspector Malcolm Fox of the Complaints.

I don't know where this weekend has gone. It seemed like a good idea to have a glance at The Impossible Dead, just to see what it was about, but it wasn't at the top of my reading pile so there would be no way that I would spend much time on it. That was Saturday morning and this is Sunday evening and I've done nothing but read. I read a lot of crime – even quite a lot of good crime – and sometimes I wonder if Ian Rankin really can be as good as we think. I see books touted as the new Ian Rankin but frankly, there is only one and on this type of book I reckon that he's unbeatable.

The story reaches back into the mid nineteen-eighties and the death in a motor accident of activist lawyer Francis Vernal. Why was there no formal investigation into his death, particularly when it seemed that his death was caused by a gunshot wound? Who were the separatists who seemed to have easy access to guns and money and – perhaps most importantly – what became of them all? And the terrorism of the eighties is being mirrored in the present. Are kids guilty of the explosions in the woods or is someone practicing?

It's a story with more layers than an onion and as each layer is added it becomes more and more compelling. Eventually I came to the conclusion that Rankin's great talent is that as the plot becomes more complex it becomes more believable. It's firmly grounded in the here and now, in situations we know and recognise and peopled by characters we can recognise. Fox might doubt just how well he would transfer back to CID at the end of his stint in Internal Affairs and it's easy to understand his preference for men who have broken rules rather than bones. And then there's his father, existing in a retirement home – with Fox lacking the time to see him regularly, but with the money to pay for his care.

But do you know the best thing about this book? I never once thought about Inspector John Rebus.

It's not long since I read The Vault by Ruth Rendell – another excellent writer with a history of brilliant plots. It was good, but not as good as The Impossible Dead. If you haven't read the first in the series then you should. There's some small benefit to reading them in chronological order, but whatever – just read them.

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Buy The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin at


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