Jack Parlabane is a freelance investigative journalist with a nose for trouble. Back in Scotland from a not exactly self imposed exile in Los Angeles, his return having been prompted by the discovery of a hitman in his flat one morning. Awakening on his first morning back, he battles through jet lag and a hangover to try and discover the source of the appalling smell that has permeated his bedroom. Looking further afield reveals the smell to be coming from his downstairs neighbour, well the remains of his downstairs neighbour.
Jenny Dalziel is a young DC who first encounters Parlabane standing barefoot in the less than sanitary midst of the crime scene. She escorts the journalist down the nick for a quiet word and finds herself surprised to discover she actually trusts his judgement in the case. Her superior, Inspector McGregor, believes the case to be a burglary gone wrong, but Dalziel believes otherwise.
Dr Sarah Slaughter is the ex-wife of the deceased, Dr Jeremy Ponsonby, and a doctor in servitude to the NHS. She first encounters Parlabane after her own midnight reconnoitre of the crime scene and after exchanging details agrees with Parlabane that not everything is smelling of roses.
Quite Ugly One Morning starts off with a rather horrific murder and follows the people involved with its investigation as they start to uncover things even uglier than the remains of the late Dr Ponsonby.
I wouldn’t class this as a classic medical mystery, while it shares a similar medical horror story to something like Coma, that story itself is background. Nor does it follow Agatha Christie’s style, where you hit the last page and discover that the butler did it.
As the story progresses, all of the characters are revealed and their involvement to one level or another. It is the characterisations that get you — you may have all the background on a character, but that doesn’t mean their subsequent behaviour is going to be expected, usually it’s not.
Christopher Brookmyre shoots straight from the hip with a first novel that launches into a scathing political attack on the NHS — a system that sees hospitals run by petty bureaucrats, who have more interest in lining their own pockets than caring for the patients (and doctors) they are meant to be administering. It also targets the appalling treatment of medical staff and some of the socially inept people the NHS pushes through the system.
I seem to have started reading Christopher Brookmyre’s from the wrong end, it hasn’t detracted from the stories and it is kind of nice to see familiar characters popping up, but in retrospect, it would have been better to follow the characters as they developed on their progression through the different books.
Jack Parlabane, Jenny Dalziel and Sarah Slaughter play a major part in Country Of The Blind, a retired and reluctant Inspector McGregor is the one man cavalry in One Fine Day In The Middle Of The Night and a minor player in the form of Larry Freeman takes the lead in Not The End Of The World.
This is a fast and darkly humorous look at the life of medics and journalists, but the depictions of casual violence may be a bit too much for some readers. This book doesn’t use as many local Scottish colloquialisms as Christopher Brookmyre’s later efforts, but there’s more than enough to confuse the unwary.
I’ve loved all of Christopher Brookmyre’s books and this is no exception, so if you’ve read his other work, you’ll love this. Also if you’ve run across Irvine Welsh, you’ll probably find this book more accessible.
I don’t know how easy it will be to find Christopher Brookmyre’s books, as he is a fairly new author. And being a Scottish lad, not yet with the cult following of Irvine Welsh, probably doesn’t help in immediate US distribution. I would hope that any big book store could order his work in, but if that fails try Internet Bookshop or Amazon in the UK.
Published Epinions — 07.08.2000
Book available from Amazon and Amazon UK