5 best mysteries of the holiday season

From Austen and Conan Doyle imitators to a reporter following a mysterious homicide, these five novels are sure to please any mystery fan

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3. 'The Impossible Dead,' by Ian Rankin

In the world of mysteries, Ian Rankin is to world-weary Edinburgh policemen as Alexander McCall Smith is to traditionally built Botswanans and tiny white vans.

“The king of Tartan Noir” (TM James Ellroy) saddened fans when his dearly beloved Detective Inspector John Rebus faced off against organized crime boss Big Ger Cafferty for the last time in 2007's “Exit Music.”

His 2009 novel, “The Complaints,” launched a new series starring Internal Affairs officer Malcolm Fox and his cohorts, second-in-command Tony Kaye and eager young 'un Joe Naysmith. “Complaints and Conduct had been their official title until recently. Now they were supposed to be Professional Ethics and Standards. Next year they'd be something else again: the name Standards and Values had been mooted, to nobody's liking. They were The Complaints, the cops who investigated other cops. Which was why those other cops were never happy to see them,” Rankin writes in his new novel The Impossible Dead.

The mystery opens on a routine investigation to Kirkcaldy, where a policeman has been convicted on charges of corruption and the higher-ups want to be sure they have only the one bad apple and “not a whole cider factory.” Initially, the only unusual feature is who led the charge against Paul Carter: his own uncle, Alan, a former police officer who owns his own security firm. Then Alan gets shot with a gun that supposedly was melted down more than 20 years ago, and Fox finds himself investigating a corrupt tangle of murder, cover-ups, and violent 1980s separatists as snarled as a White Snake hairdo. 

It's not necessary to read “The Complaints” to enjoy the twists of “The Impossible Dead,” and, unless you're a grudge-holding Rebus fan, it's a pleasure to witness Rankin in action.

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