A routine, if unpleasant, internal investigation of the Fife Constabulary leads Edinburgh’s Inspector Malcolm Fox and his Professional Standards team (The Complaints, 2011, etc.) back to a 25-year-old cover-up.
If his own uncle, retired police officer Alan Carter, is to be believed, Detective Constable Paul Carter is certainly guilty of criminal misconduct for threatening Teresa Collins and two other women with harassment unless they met with him one-on-one in the back seat of his cruiser. So Malcolm Fox, together with Sgt. Tony Kaye and Constable Joe Naysmith, are sent down from the Lothian and Borders Police to make inquires. Their investigation is one disaster after another. Carter’s colleagues in Kircaldy alternately avoid the questioners and stonewall them. Teresa Collins greets their news that Paul Carter has been released from jail by hysterically accusing his investigators of intimidating her. Soon after Fox talks with him, Alan Carter is found shot to death by a gun that was supposed to have been destroyed many years ago. His apparent suicide is followed by the drowning of the nephew he accused. As the case against the late Paul Carter goes up in flames and his own credibility plummets, Fox must also mend fences with his sister Jude over the care of their ailing father Mitch, who’s clearly entering his endgame. But a 1985 newspaper he spotted in Alan Carter’s home during their one and only meeting points him in the direction of Francis Vernal, a lawyer linked to the Scottish National Liberation Army before he was found shot to death in his wrecked car a generation ago.
Rankin deftly balances welcome surprises and satisfyingly predictable developments. Mainly, though, he succeeds in making methodical Fox a worthy successor to the legendary Inspector John Rebus.