Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung
Inspector Malcolm Fox, from Lothian and Borders Police’s Internal Affairs department is back, this time sent to Fife with his team of two to help investigate a bad cop who might have infected a whole police station.
Fox knows he is not going to be welcome, whether all the coppers are bent or whether they are just worried that they will be tainted by simple proximity. When he and his team arrive the Desk Sergeant may not be manning the desk to let them in, there may be no rooms available, and sickness of some indefinable sort may be keeping potential interviewees at home. That is if the complaining civilians who have been abused are worth treating as witnesses to begin with. Fox, though, has seen all this before.
Less common, in Fox’s experience, is that the bad apple would be given up by his own uncle, a long-retired constable, now living in a lonely and simple cottage. Much more likely is that the mistreated prisoner at the centre of the complaint should be a junkie, probably on the game, as in fact she is. What is it, though, about Fox’s investigation might make her slash her wrists on a broken window, screaming for help, as his team ask her about her complaint?
More to the point, does any of that matter? Does it when that lonely uncle is found dead, shot, a potential suicide? Perhaps not, but when Fox points out that the gun is in the wrong hand, and his companion dog has been left alive, something else suggests itself and the constabulary get moving. Not that they have to move very far, because the dodgy nephew has been out on bail and seen driving around the locality, making him a convenient suspect.
Fox, though, does not believe in convenience. In The Complaints, Ian Rankin’s first book in this series, Fox found himself a suspect. This time he finds himself a target, but, then, he does put himself in the sights. He does nothing by halves.
The Complaints had the property boom and subsequent crash as its contemporary background, now in The Impossible Dead, Fox goes back to the struggle for nationalist politics and a strange death, and disappearances, in 1985, and the way they show up today. In the background there is another story of would-be bomb makers testing their infernal devices and consequent ratcheting-up of security levels. There are politicians demanding that everything is put to rights, and there are important people who want it all done without any change to the status quo, andapart from those people there is money. Some once had it, some now have it. Some do not want to be asked how they came by it. If they cannot be asked or will not answer then Fox has to work it out another way, the police way, his own way. They way that gets men shot.
Like The Complaints, The Impossible Dead is slow to start moving, but then speeds up: discovery, realisation and action piling on top of each other. The dead may be impossible, but with Malcolm Fox their ultimate justice – never.