Friday, June 17, 2011

Reading matters

By the time the last century ended I had become used to the Brookmyre flash, the sight of each new brilliantly designed cover calling to me from the ‘new releases’ shelf of a great bookshop on the Neumarkt in Cologne.

 Then there was the same graphic ‘come hither’ when the latest book appeared (with commendable promptness after first publiction)at one of the Jashanmal bookstores in Abu Dhabi. (Where I was also privileged to meet Ian Rankin when he visited the Sandlands for a signing.) There I sourced my next five Christopher Brookmyres for reading on the beach. (Only in winter, though, when the temperatures were in the balmy twenties.)

Returning to Europe, this time to Munich, any new Brookmyre title stood out from everything else on display at the Hugendubel English language branch, thanks to the talent of the brilliant art director Duncan Spilling.

But last week it was only after a truly cinematic double-take that I chanced upon Where The Bodies Are Buried. Tellingly the cover is no longer credited to Spilling. (The design is not awful, but mediocre in comparison to those of the past which frankly merit publication as large-format framed posters.)

And what is with this diminutive ‘Chris’ all of a sudden?

Ach, listen to me. The new book is terrific and though I’d happily read of further Parlabane misdventures the new, less Tartan Noir style is very convincing and Jasmine Sharp the intriguing anchor of a delightful new cast of characters.

Wiki on Brookmyre:
Five of Brookmyre's novels (Quite Ugly One Morning, Country of the Blind, Boiling a Frog, Be My Enemy and Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks) centre on the investigative journalist Jack Parlabane. Parlabane's unorthodox, occasionally criminal methods usually see him catching all manner of "white collar" villains, from murderous NHS Trust managers (Quite Ugly One Morning) to rogue secret service chiefs (Country of the Blind, Be My Enemy). The character is very anti-authoritarian and frequently curses institutions such as the government, media and intelligence services.

Through Parlabane, Brookmyre articulates what might be argued as a radical viewpoint, with the "bad guys" invariably belonging to the Establishment. Most vitriolic is Boiling a Frog, in which Parlabane tracks down massive corruption and murder in the then newly fledged Scottish Government and the Catholic Church. This latter novel is also notable for countering readers' accusations that Parlabane had become too good at his work, as it opens with him in prison following a conviction for breaking and entering. It also reveals that the character's full name is John Lapsley Parlabane.

An Amazon review of the latest book:

"The mordant wit and high-octane explosions of gory violence are definitely toned down in the latest novel to such an extent that fans of the author's earlier work will undoubtedly be disappointed by what is a relatively more conventional crime work. Conventional maybe, but Where The Bodies Are Buried is still a fine crime novel in its own right, with strong characterisation and a compelling whodunit with a satisfying, credible conclusion."

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