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When small-time heroin dealer Jai McDiarmid turns up dead one fine Glasgow morning, no one is that surprised - he'd been sleeping with a drug trafficker's girlfriend and had made himself a lot of enemies - so many, in fact, that...
When small-time heroin dealer Jai McDiarmid turns up dead one fine Glasgow morning, no one is that surprised - he'd been sleeping with a drug trafficker's girlfriend and had made himself a lot of enemies - so many, in fact, that Detective Superintendent Catherine McLeod doesn't know where to start when she is assigned to the case. Meanwhile, out-of-work actress Jasmine Sharp is doing her best to be a private investigator, but her PI mentor Uncle Jim, who was meant to be showing her the ropes, has just disappeared in mysterious circumstances. She begins looking at the open cases that Jim was investigating - which sends her into trouble, fast. And when she soon finds out that Jim's disappearance has something to do with Jai's death, she teams up with Catherine - and together they stumble upon an old open case which throws everything into question. In Glasgow, nothing is quite what it seems.
—Longlisted for Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year (2012)
“[An] offbeat tale of ruthless mobsters in Glasgow. . . . A Scottish crime novelist best known for his satirical gore fests . . . Brookmyre here begins a new, straighter-faces procedural cop series. A brainy, barbed noir. . . . with its contrasting protagonists (it’s easy to envision a series built around the endearing Jasmine), local color and language and skillfully orchestrated sense of bad things to come, the novel maintains a solid grip on the reader. Brookmyre isn’t as well-known in the States as fellow Scottish mystery writers Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Denise Mina, but this first-rate effort may change that.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"A strident blast of the trumpet to wake up crime fiction readers everywhere."—Val McDermid
"Premier-league crime writing."—Mark Billingham
“Brookmyre, well known in Great Britain for mixing black comedy into his thrillers, has veered toward a semiconventional procedural here, but he spikes his tale with internal police intrigues, bent coppers, and assorted ne’er-do-wells. . . . Well sketched, and almost every character is supplied some cynical, funny dialogue. . . . It’s Brookmyre’s sense of the city and its no-nuance criminals that makes this one a winner.”—Booklist
“Solid . . . Corruption, betrayal, and gallows humor fuel the noir plot, while family problems lend emotional depth.”—Publishers Weekly
"Where the Bodies Are Buried is mainstream Glasgow noir, and it proves [Brookmyre] to be just as excellent at the gritty, serious end of the genre as he was dispensing manic humor."—The Times (London)
"[Brookmyre's] writing is as sharply observed and mordantly funny as ever. . . . there are plenty of back-doubles and plot twists in this fast-paced read."—The Guardian
"A pacy, witty thriller that marks a new chapter for [Brookmyre]."—The Scotsman
“Brookmyre is one of those fascinating individuals who sees and knows exactly what nicely toned written text looks like, jovially chooses to ignore it, and lowers the bar to a level of utterly brutal and fantastic indecency that is an absolute pleasure to read.”—Edinburgh STV
Posted November 2, 2014
There's something about the far northern latitudes -- the weather, perhaps? -- that seems to bring out the noir in the writers who live there. So it goes with Tartan Noir. My main exposure to crime north of the Tweed has been via Ian Rankin, so belatedly taking up Brookmyre's 2011 Where the Bodies Are Buried was a happy accident. Happy, indeed.
Two parallel investigations make up the body of the novel: a police enquiry into the brutal murder of a two-bit Glasgow pusher, and the private hunt for a missing P.I. The former is led by DS Catherine McLeod, a middle-aged detective who's hit the glass ceiling inside the Glasgow police and is buffeted by the political wrangling inside the department and the personal politics within her family. The second case features twenty-something Jasmine Sharp, a young woman almost dysfunctional enough to feature in a Swedish crime novel, who had been attempting without signal success to learn her uncle's detective trade when he suddenly disappeared. That the two cases tangle and lead to unexpected places is not, itself, unexpected.
Brookmyre's voice takes on the personalities of the point-of-view characters, flowing smoothly from type to type as he shifts from McLeod to Sharp to various hardcases. He seems to have absorbed the bleak, bitter worldview of the police, the braggadocio of the hoods, and Jasmine's utter disarray. He can be tart, smartarsed and darkly funny, or confused, vulnerable and desolate, depending on who owns the stage. While the former seems to be his natural voice, he manages to pull off Jasmine's inner life without sounding like a bloke trying to impersonate a hen.
McLeod is persuasively settled in midlife, suffering both the physical and mental distresses that come when you have more time behind you than in front of you. Her interactions with her younger husband and her two young sons feel authentically fraught with the everyday tensions and frustrations of life. At work, she deals with political weasels, the various slights that come from being a woman in a man's clubhouse, and of course the new- and old-school villains who fill her to-do list. Her dealings with and reactions to them also feel organic and well-observed. I've known American versions of McLeod and could easily recognize her.
Jasmine starts as a hot mess, a former-almost-actress who is useless at the detective arts, chronically mourning her now-departed mother, barely able to scrape up the two coins to rub together. Everything perplexes or threatens her. Yet she learns, she grows, and she finds herself in work she never expected to do, far less succeed in. Her small successes and flashes of insight steadily build her into the woman she becomes by the end.
The dialog is sharp, fitted to the characters, and reasonably realistic for the setting. Brookmyre is a Scot and his characters are Scots. Theirs is not Oxbridge English. Both the dialog and the narrative go far past the occasional "wee" and "aye" Rankin would salt in for Caledonian atmosphere. Just go with it; you can nearly always figure out the meaning through the context or by sounding out the dialect.
I'd give this four and a half stars if we could give half-stars; sadly, we can't. The demerits are for a too-tidy ending to the tangled mess that preceded it and an underdeveloped central male character who feels more a type than a person. Still, it's a fine tale told well. If you like your skies gray and your morals grayer, give Bodies a try.
Posted May 19, 2014
No text was provided for this review.