The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin

This is the second Malcolm Fox book and he’s still a detective in The Complaints department which is based in Fettes Avenue in Edinburgh, they investigate any police officers who are suspected of being up to no good. Along with his colleagues Naysmith and Kaye, Fox travels to the police station at Kirkcaldy in Fife so that they can interview police officers who have been implicated in a recent court case which has resulted in the conviction of a detective at the Kirkcaldy police station.

That happens to be my local ‘cop shop’ and most of the action in this book takes place within a short distance of where I live, and of course as Ian Rankin is almost a local lad, being brought up in another nearby Fife town, it’s an area which he knows very well. It was quite strange but at the same time a wee bit thrilling to recognise all the shops, tea shops and housing estates which they frequented, if you know the area you’ll even recognise particular lay bys! I must say that Rankin portrayed the town exactly as it is.

I think I enjoyed this one even more than the first one in this series, (The Complaints) although how much that is because of the local interest I can’t say.

In this one Fox has to dig back in newspaper archives to discover why a retired policeman had been investigating the death of a prominent Scottish politician in 1985. Was it suicide or did MI5 have something to do with it?

There certainly were some things going on in the 1980s, a few Scottish so called terrorists did rear their ugly heads. The rest of us were quite mystified why anyone should want to be extreme and violent. It didn’t amount to much anyway and I recall that the biggest incident was when a ‘bomb’ had been left on the railway track close to my then local railway station. People were not chuffed at the trains to Glasgow being delayed, me included. It turned out that the perpetrators were a couple of local numpties that I knew, from a distance. They were jailed for several years for their efforts.

Of course, Ian Rankin’s book is a work of fiction but it does sort of imply that there was a problem with terrorism in Scotland in the past – and really there never was such a problem. The thing in Scotland, particularly the west, has always been the religious bigotry. Thankfully that doesn’t seem to be nearly as bad as it used to be as fewer parents send their children to faith schools, where they used to be taught that they were different (superior) to the children at ordinary state schools. Tony Blair was keen on allowing more faith schools and unfortunately the Conservative Party is now all for religious schools too. In fact they really want schools which are staffed by low paid ‘teachers’ with no qualifications. Fools!

14 thoughts on “The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin

  1. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as The Complaints. I do think knowing the location – and the fact that the author has described it correctly – adds to the pleasure of reading. I don’t know the area, so that was missing for me. As for the terrorist element, I thought that was interesting – usually any mention of terrorists is a turn-off for me – but it’s good to know that there wasn’t such a problem!

    • Margaret,
      I definitely enjoyed the first half more than the second and I’m sure that was because I knew exactly where the action was going on. The few Scottish nationalist nutters were just laughable really and of course the Irish ones said that they wouldn’t do anything in Scotland and luckily they didn’t.

  2. We have what you call ‘faith’ schools here, but I’ve never heard of them teaching superiority. If anything, it’s the Christians that are discriminated against these days. It’s much more au courant to be an atheist.

    What we are having more of is home-schooling, which I feel is an actual dis-service to the children. It perpetuates an isolation that just isn’t transferable to the real world that we have to function in. And I worry about the capability of an essentially untrained individual to properly cover a broad range of studies (math tends to suffer the most, and it’s my chosen field of study.)

    • Pearl,
      Unfortunately in the past the Catholic church in Scotland did teach their pupils that they were better than non Catholics and as my extended family had quite a lot of people of that faith I have direct experience of it. I’ve even heard priests in church bad-mouthing non RCs. I’ve not heard anything like that in other churches, and I tried quite a few of them!
      I agree about the home-schooling. I think that kids should meet lots of different people as they are growing up, to broaden their knowledge. Some local Plymouth Brethren folks decided to take their children out of school when my boys were at primary school. Every time I went to the shops those kids were being dragged around the shops instead of being at school. After a year the education authority realised that the kids had had no teaching and made them go back to the school again. I think primary school teachers should have good maths qualifications, most of them don’t and the teaching suffers, I was rubbish at it and I’m sure it was because I didn’t get enough maths as the teachers themselves didn’t like it.

  3. I have only just read my first Rankin novel. Need to catch up with a Rebus one next perhaps? This sounds good though, might see what I can find in the library not that I need to be going there really!

    • Jo,
      I know what you mean, I have so many books of my own to read but the temporary library which we have at the moment is in the high street and I can’t resist dropping in when I’m down there!

  4. I have only read one Rebus novel. Plan to follow up with more. Also want to read this series. I found your comments on this book very interesting, especially related to terrorism vs. religious bigotry in Scotland.

    • Tracy,

      I have a theory that there was only enough room for one sort of hatred and religious bigotry was always going to be more important to most people. It was the only down side to the west of Scotland. I remeber that Muslims used to be asked if they were Catholic or Protestant Muslims. It all depended which school they went to or football team they supported!

      • If the concept weren’t so tragic, that’d be pretty funny (Catholic or Protestant Muslims…)

        Why must we be so focused on our differences? It’s the differences that makes life worth living!! Of course I live in the land of absolute diversity, so it’s a good thing that’s my inherent worldview.

        • Pearl,
          We do find it funny and kind of pathetic. Yes it’s the differences that make things interesting although we can do without people who commit murder in the name of honour or mutilate little girls. It’s the one thing I think France has got right, we do tend to bend over backwards for fear of upsetting different cultures, but in France they make ‘foreigners’ obey the law, no matter where they come from.

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