It's a problem faced only by the most successful of authors. What do you do when the lead character you have seen through many books and much of his career - and who in turn has seen you through much of yours - reaches retirement age? Author Ian Rankin's famous Edinburgh detective, Inspector John Rebus, retired leaving a generation of fans of crime fiction wondering what would happen next.
We may now know the answer. Ian Rankin's second book of the post-Rebus era is The Complaints. We are back in the setting of Edinburgh and within the Lothian and Borders Police. But Inspector Malcolm Fox is not your ordinary detective. His job in the "Complaints and Conduct Department" is to ensure that those enforcing the law are themselves abiding by it. Who watches the watchers? Malcolm Fox does, and it is a role which makes him something of an outsider in his own police force; and earns him some determined and vengeful enemies.
Like John Rebus, Malcolm Fox is a well developed character, with a real life and real problems outside his work. But when his family life and his work start to become entwined, Fox finds himself suddenly vulnerable to his many enemies and has to work outside the system to find out who did what to whom, and why.
Inspector John Rebus is a very hard act to follow: but in The Complaints Ian Rankin has not only found a worthy successor, he has produced what we believe to be his best book to date. Malcolm Fox is a more multi-dimensional character than John Rebus, and emerges fully formed from the keyboard of an experience author at the top of his game. It seems somehow disloyal to say it, but after a period wondering how we were going to manage life without regular appearances by John Rebus, we are now simply looking forward to Malcolm Fox's next outing.