Review – Quite Ugly One Morning

Quite Ugly One Morning – Christopher Brookmyre

Yeah, yeah, the usual. A crime. A corpse. A killer. Heard it.
Except this stiff happens to be a Ponsonby, scion of a venerable Edinburgh medical clan, and the manner of his death speaks of unspeakable things.
Why is the body displayed like a slice of beef?
How come his hands are digitally challenged?
And if it’s not the corpse, what is that awful smell?

Parlabane found the word ‘pro-active’ enormously useful, as it immediately exposed the speaker as an irredeemable arsehole, whatever previous impression might have been given.

Ok, so I mostly read Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and most of that is YA or NA – but I do also enjoy a good dose of Crime/Thriller every now and again, I find it works almost like a palette cleanser – a good murder to blow away the stories of fae and wizards and magic.

I’ve read several books by Christopher Brookmyre and have always enjoyed them – especially his standalones Bedlam, Pandaemonium, A Tale Etched In Blood And Hard Black Pencil and the Jasmine Sharp series – however I never got around to reading the Jack Parlabane series (despite picking up most of them at charity shops…), but as Parlabane is his most famous character I figured I had to give him a go.

Time to start! Now, I love Brookmyre’s writing style, it’s witty and sarcastic and at times quite violent – but I can understand those who struggle with it. QUOM was published in 1996, so some of the references are a bit dated now (and some I just don’t get, I was only 8 at the time!) and was part of my most favouritely named genre – Tartan Noir – which Brookmyre excels at: dark, gritty, Scottish.

You know a book is going to be good (and also know it is written by Christopher Brookmyre!) when the first words of Chapter One are ‘Jesus fuck’, swiftly followed by roughly half a page describing vomit and the smell of a crime scene. Parlabane is then introduced, having returned to Edinburgh from Los Angeles after causing an at-this-time-unknown journalistic upset.

Parlabane is a slightly morally grey but overall likable character – I suspect if I was to meet him in real life he would be an insufferable prick, but hey, I like to read about bastards. He uses his trademark ‘unorthodox’ methods to dig deeper into a story than any sane person would, and utilises his impressive lock-picking and climbing skills to gather evidence, getting himself caught up in power struggles on both sides of the Atlantic.

‘And how are you going to find that out without asking the kind of questions that might send the bad guy scurrying for cover?’ Jenny asked, then caught Parlabane’s eye. ‘On second thoughts, don’t answer that. In fact, forget I even asked.’

Overall I really enjoyed this book – the characters were very well written and the dialogue was great, and I like the way Brookmyre writes certain parts so that you have to read it in a Scottish accent, which adds authenticity to the story. It is pretty fast paced, I flew through it in two days, and am looking forward to reading more of Parlabane’s escapades – can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get to!

Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre
Published 1996 by Little, Brown & Company
Read May 2018


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