Book Review: Ian Rankin’s Impossible Dead

Posted November 29, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Ian Rankin’s Impossible Dead

Impossible Dead


Ian Rankin

police procedural that was published by Reagan Arthur Books on November 21, 2011 and has 391 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Exit Music, The Complaints, Standing in Another Man's Grave, A Good Hanging, Saints of the Shadow Bible, Even Dogs in the Wild, Rather Be the Devil

Second in the Malcolm Fox suspenseful police procedural series set in Scotland.

My Take

It’s a a cold case that has warmed up and it seems the reason for the warming is unrequited love and a cop who is still operating in the tradition of the old days.

I gotta say. This was an odd one. Intriguing, fascinating, and I couldn’t put it down. And very unsettling. Rankin’s characters are real. They have their faults, their pluses. Fox, naturally, is the honest, hardworking cop who won’t accept being told to let something go and his “defect” is his neglect of family. Although, this is mostly in his hard-done-by sister’s eyes. He’s the everyman we want to be, beset by his generation’s worries about aging parents.

It’s old history and family hatreds. Old-time terrorists and a cop who wants the truth. Don’t ever try to hide something from Malcolm Fox. He’s a terrier digging until his curiosity is satisfied. Mostly I suspect Fox was irritated by the lack of cooperation and simply tried to find a different tack to explore. One that took him down older, other roads. I don’t understand why Chris Fox was brought into this unless it was simply to justify looking at old family pictures with dad.

It seems as though Fox, Kaye, and Naysmith have a lot of spare time on their hands. They drive up to Fife for a few hours and then head home. Every day. A lot of convenient vagueness in this. Gotta give ’em points though for uprooting the the truth.

Whoa, what a coldhearted bitch! It’ll be interesting to see who is no longer in power when book 3 comes out.

Curiosity may not quite kill the fox, but it comes very close.

The Story

It’s straightforward enough. One cop has been convicted of wrongdoing and Fox, Kaye, and Naysmith are simply tidying the case up. Only the original complainant ends up a very questionable suicide and Fox has questions about the death and a bit of research the old guy was doing.

Between the obstructive Cash and the secretive Jackson, Fox gets riled and digs even more, turning up contrary evidence, revealing long-held secrets.

The Characters

Detective Inspector Malcolm Fox, Tony Kaye with his nose for a good cafe and policework, and Joe Naysmith, who needs some seasoning, are the team from Complaints. Mitch Fox is Malcolm’s dad and in an old folks’ home. Jude is his younger, whining, complaining, bitchy sister. Chris Fox was a cousin who died in a motorbike accident decades ago. Evelyn Mills is a married Complaints cop in Fife with whom Fox had a one-nighter. Bob McEwan is the team’s immediate boss.

Chief Constable Jim Byars is escorting Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) Jackson from Special Branch about. Chief Constable Alison Pears, of the Central Scotland Constabulary, has worked her way up to a top rank; her husband, Stephen Pears, is a financial whiz. Alison’s brother, Andrew Watson, is the Minister of Justice in Scotland.

The uncooperative cops at Fife
Detective Inspector (DI) Ray Scholes, Detective Sergeant (DS) Gary Michaelson, and DS Haldane are Detective Constable (DC) Paul Carter‘s buddies. Carter is from a family of cops and makes some illegal demands. DCI Peter Laird is Carter’s immediate boss. DC Cheryl Forrester may have some background. I did like her approach to being questioned, LOL. Superintendent Isabel Pitkethly is new to Fife, but eager to uphold her men. Alec Robinson is the desk sergeant. Sheriff Colin Cardonald is in charge of which prisoners are released.

A retired cop, Uncle Alan Carter, is the one who filed the initial complaint. Now he runs a security business employing ex-felons, including Tosh Garioch and Mel Stuart. Now-retired Superintendent Robert Hendryson started the ball rolling. Gavin Willis was a DI when Vernal died and led the inquiry into his death; he was also Alan’s mentor.

Cops investigating the latest murder
DS Brendan Young and DI Cash are with the Murder Squad and quite full of themselves. They’re also uncooperative jerks until Fox plays his trump card. Fiona McFadzean is Fife’s ballistics person.

Teresa Collins, Bekka, and Billie all complained of being solicited by Carter. Brian Jamieson is a stringer. Teddy Fraser is Alan Carter’s best and oldest friend; it’s his testimony that perks everyone up.

The old “suicide”
Francis Vernal was a lawyer, an activist patriot for the Scottish National Party, who handled the finances and roaring rhetoric for the group. Charles Mangold is a senior partner in a firm of solicitors, Mangold Bain, and was a friend of Vernal’s. He wants the truth about Vernal’s death. Imogen is Vernal’s supposedly merry widow. Alice Watts was Vernal’s bit on the side and she disappeared immediately after his death. Hawkeye and Donald MacIver were vicious militants. John Elliot is now a TV newscaster. Professor John Martin did his PhD thesis on Scottish militancy in the 1980s.

The Cover and Title

The cover is eerie with its bright daylight sky, a short-cropped field, and its lonely car. It almost appears to be underwater with the haze. There really should have been either a tree or a rickety garage with this.

The title is the dead who refuse to die, The Impossible Dead.