Where the Bodies are Buried, by Chris Brookmyre

Slow-burning depiction of Glasgow gangland culture

Christopher Brookmyre is moving in a new direction. Or should that be Chris is …? He’s dropped the “topher”, you see. No idea why. Probably because I haven’t asked. Taking a stab, it might be a fair assumption it’s to mark a new, more seriously minded chapter in his writing career.

Glasgow detective Catherine McLeod has her hands full with a gangland killing, while wannabe actress Jasmine Sharp is playing private eye, working for her uncle when he goes missing. Both stumble through a web of corruption, turning over stones to reveal a history of violence and horror that questions everything they thought they knew.

Told over a split narrative, the threads intertwine and eventually knot firmly in a story that fails to get the pulse racing.

Brookmyre has abandoned his “comic terror” style to write a hard-nosed conventional crime thriller. His prose remains interspersed with trademark wit, but it now seems misplaced and serves only to interrupt the flow of the story.

It’s all fairly standard stuff. Murders, gangs, family tensions, predictable plot twists. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the tried and tested; it’s just a shame that a unique writer such as Brookmyre has failed to add any new interesting stops on this old familiar road. To his credit, however, he weaves his plotlines cleverly and the writing is solid, if unspectacular.

The pair of protagonists are nothing to get excited about. They both lack dimension and draw out little empathy. They’re defined by long, dull biographical info dumps, which make it hard to see them as anything more than under-developed ideas in Brookmyre’s mind. He forces potted histories on to the page, when allowing their backgrounds to be more subtly drawn from scenes might have worked better.

Brookmyre’s legacy will remain intact. He’s a fine writer and one turkey shouldn’t be allowed to damage that. Some authors can reinvent themselves successfully, but on this evidence he should stick to what he knows best.

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6 Responses to Where the Bodies are Buried, by Chris Brookmyre

  1. Barb Ettridge says:

    This is an author who I haven’t read, but you’ve encouraged me to have a look at the older work. Sound review – thanks for posting it.

  2. PaulDBrazill says:

    I love his older stuff. This doesn’t sound as much fun.

  3. writersworkshop says:

    I think you need to read Quite Ugly One Morning and leave it there. In fact, the first twenty pages of that book were the best he ever wrote. Or am I being too cynical?

  4. David Lewis says:

    Fair enough comment. I’ve never been a huge fan, only read his books because I’ve had to (ie for work), but he deserves praise for the change of pace he brought to the genre.

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