Quite Ugly One Morning, cover

Review of a Gruesome and Entertaining Criminal Mystery Novel

Christopher Brookmyre's first novel is an excellent start combining wit, humour with very dark images of murder and man's lust for power and wealth at any cost.

There is a surreal streak to Brookmyre’s writing in Quite Ugly One Morning and it becomes even more pronounced in some of his later works. Justifiably, it won the 1996 Critic’s First Blood Award for a first crime novel.

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire

Jack Parlablane, investigative journalist, has twice flown the Atlantic to escape threats to his life. First leaving Glasgow for Los Angeles where his journalistic instincts naturally took him into dark corners of American society. But such people are even more willing to use murder to eliminate threats so he soon has to return to Edinburgh.

Just hours after flying back to Scotland he wakes up with a hangover, a common occurrence, to an unpleasant smell, that is not in his almost empty, borrowed flat. Going out to investigate, his front door blows shut and he has no way of getting back into the apartment. Dressed only in his boxer shorts he goes to the flat above with the hope that he will be able to climb back into his own through the open window.

The occupant is not answering the door and when the police leave the door open Parlablane sees an opportunity to nip in and get to his own flat. He then realises what the smell was as he comes across a particularly gruesome murder. That is when the police arrest him...

After his release he teams up with the woman police detective who does not share her boss’s interpretation of the case. They are joined by the victim’s ex-wife, a doctor. There are parallel story lines of corruption, the motivations of the medical establishment and some simply bizarre happenings.

A Flawed Rogue With an Idealistic Side

All the characters develop well as the story progresses. Parlablane in particular is both flawed and highly motivated which combine to make him the sort of rogue to whom the reader will warm. The policewoman has a well established personality and is a good foil. The pair appears in Brookmyre’s later novels where they are developed further.

Black Humour, Wit, Strong Language and a Good Read

Brookmyre has been compared to Carl Hiaasen and there is some similarity in that both have a surrealistic and comic edges. Brookmyre is somewhat more graphic with darker overtones.

It all creates a pacy read with sharp wit and black humour. The language is strong so may not suit all readers but it is not gratuitous. Quite Ugly One Morning is a book to read at any time but it could well be consumed in a sitting as it races along.

Quite Ugly One Morning (ISBN: 978-0-34-911877-2) by Christopher Brookmyre is published by Abacus at £6.99. It has also been made into a tv drama on ITV starring James Nesbitt.

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