Brookmyre, Chris - 'Where the Bodies are Buried'
Someone in the Brookmyre camp knows a thing or two about branding. The combination of long title and colourful, simple graphics (designed by Duncan Spilling) have made his books instantly recognisable. (Though this paperback edition deviates from the norm.) The text is just as distinctive – very Scottish and full of dour humour. "It didn't really seem like Glasgow at all. Apart from the guy lying on the deck in the advanced stages of a severe kicking. That was as authentically local as haggis suppers and lung cancer."
Brookmyre skips between pulp genres - PANDAEMONIUM was essentially a high-school zombie movie, ALL FUN AND GAMES UNTIL SOMEBODY LOSES AN EYE more of a techno-thriller with an uncharacteristic heroine. However, there is usually a crime element, so I was surprised to see this one described as a new departure. However, it is more of a pure police procedural than I was expecting, and there is a darker tone than previously.
The lead characters are two very different women. Detective Superintendent Catherine McLeod, is an experienced and respected police officer juggling her career with a marriage and motherhood. Her fatal flaw in career terms is that she actually hates criminals and wants to put them away. "You hate these people, Cath. Don't pretend otherwise and don't kid yourself that it doesn't go unnoticed." The politics of long-term policing, alliances and deals, do not sit well with her and bring her into conflict with Abercorn, the leader of the Organised Crime Unit Special Task Force, who is more concerned with "draining the swamp" than "swatting mosquitoes".
Another strand in the narrative focuses on Jasmine Sharp, a study in insecurity and self-criticism: "Of course. Jasmine screws up". She's a failing actress, also failing in her day job as a private investigator working for her Uncle Jim. When he vanishes, it takes every ounce of her resolve to begin using her rudimentary investigative skills to locate him. Unfortunately her quest soon attracts the wrong kind of attention.
Jasmine's innocence forms a neat counterpoint to Catherine's experience. However, both find themselves sidelined in a larger story of rivalry, murder and corruption with roots going back 20 years which undermines the mantra Catherine learnt as a young cop. "This is Glesca. We don't do subtle, we don't do nuanced, we don't do conspiracy. We do pish-heid bampot bludgeoning his girlfriend to death in a fit of paranoid rage induced by forty-eight hours straight on the batter. We do cannaemisswhodunit".
Overall, not classic Brookmyre, but WHERE THE BODIES ARE BURIED is a solid addition to his work and worth reading for the one-liners and its depiction of the ongoing war between organised crime and the Glasgow polis. There are signs this will become a series, with a few things about a central character’s past remaining tantalisingly unexplained.
Rich Westwood, England
last updated 8/06/2012 14:33