The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin

‘The Impossible Dead’ is the second book in Ian Rankin’s Malcolm Fox series, following on from ‘The Complaints’.

The Internal Investigation team of Malcolm Fox, Tony Kaye and Joe Naysmith have been investigation Fife based detective Paul Carter for corruption. They need to complete their investigation by finding out if his fellow officers have been covering up for him. But the staff at Kirkcaldy police station are being less than helpful in allowing the complaints team to conduct interviews. So Fox goes to see Carter’s uncle – Alan, a retired police officer who made the original complaint.

Not long after this, Alan Carter is murdered. Paul Carter is the most obvious suspect, but Fox takes an interest in a private investigation that Alan Carter was carrying out. In the 1980s, a politically radical lawyer – Francis Vernal was found dead. The death was deemed suicide even though there was fairly clear evidence of murder.

Fox begins his own investigation into Carter’s death and its possible links to the politically charged 1980s when some groups were prepared to resort to terrorism to achieve Scottish independence. In particular, he would like to find out what became of some of the key players in some of the more radical political groups who vanished shortly after the murder of Francis Vernal.

What Fox discovers surprises even him as some of the key players have taken on new identities and are now living high profile lives. Cover-ups and corruption have been going on since the 1980s to allow this to happen.

This book also shows us more of Malcolm Fox outside of his job as the dramas with his sister Judy and his elderly father Mitch continue.


While I enjoyed this book, I don’t think it was quite as good as ‘The Complaints’. I’m enjoying some of the characters in this series – particularly Joe Naysmith and Mitch Fox. I’m looking forward to the next in the series – ‘Standing In Another Man’s Grave’ where we see the return of John Rebus (an obvious target of the complaints team).


Book Published 2011


See a full list of books by Ian Rankin

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