If you, like me, have been more than a bit concerned about regular reading habits with the retirement of Rebus, I'm happy to report that at least I'm no longer fearful. Well about the loss of a fictional companion anyway. Now I can spend long periods of time worrying about Ian Rankin's health and hoping that all is going well with his writing. Because I'd really like to think there's more than a few Malcolm Fox books in the future, as this new series shapes up to be something well worth following.
It's probably not surprising that there are some aspects between the two series that are similar. There is a central character with a difficult back story, albeit with differences between Fox and Rebus. Fox isn't as comfortable in his flaws, he's taking steps to try to get his act together. It makes sense that a flawed man is working for The Complaints. It's not surprising that a man who has done the best and the worst can cope with the best and the worst in others.
Another similarity is the way that the books are perfectly balanced between a character study and a good, solid plot. In THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD The Complaints are investigating allegations about a single individual - ex-Detective Paul Carter and what looks like a cover-up by his fellow officers. Fox and his small team are forced closer together simply by being outsiders, but this book gives Rankin the chance to strengthen that team feeling, whilst also allowing them to rise as individuals - again not unlike the Rebus / Siobhan pairing.
Whilst Fox, his ailing father and his bitter and twisted sister remain the focus of the personal aspects of the book, there is a back story for all of the team building, just as the resentment of the cops that investigate other cops is growing. I must admit I'm finding that aspect - cops investigating other cops, and the things that are being hidden and why - part of what's particularly interesting about this series. Obviously because it is something different, but also because in Rankin's hands, it's not one-dimensional, and the mechanics of "investigation" of a crime remain forefront.
Whilst I'm happy that the occasional Rebus outing is still in the offing, I've also developed quite a liking for this new direction in a big hurry. Of course, there is always the fact that if Rankin published his to do list, I'd read that as well, but THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD is really a very good entry in this excellent new series.