Edinburgh: a brutally murdered doctor, an attractive but dodgy
investigative journalist, the attractive ex-wife of the dead doctor,
a mad, scheming, corrupt child of Thatcher, a brutal thug who
can’t stick to a plan. Trainspotting meets Cop Show.
If there wasn’t quite so much blood, guts and vomit, it would
make a lovely three parter for Carlton.
The plot: Jack Parlabane returns from LA in a hurry – he’s been
treading on too many toes. His neighbour Ponsonby is murdered,
and not just murdered: really nastily murdered. So the first few
pages reek of vomit and stomach-churning detail of gore. The motive:
when the ex-wife of said doctor, Sarah, turns up, the plot thickens.
Also a doctor, she is able to provide insights into the doctors
possible shady practices while in the employ of the local health
authority. This is billed as a post-Thatcherite nightmare. There
is something rotten in the state of Britain.
The dialogue can be cracking, there is a good enough plot, and
lots of lovely contemporary urban references. But somehow Quite
Ugly One Morning fails to deliver. The characters are developed
in a very lop-sided way, as is the plot. I got the feeling that
having sketched out the structure, some bits were rushed through
to get to some detail that excited the author, but leaves the
reader not quite believing in these often very funny characters.
A lack of narrative cohesion means that in some places the brutal
thug can be quite sympathetic and funny, yet we are still supposed
to feel horrified at the total lack of morality uncovered. This
is a prime case of an under-developed book being published to
the detriment of the author. Its got loads of potential, a cracking
style when its being consistent, but it’s been rushed through
without much editorial guidance. Lets hope his next one is given
the editing it needs to fulfil Brookmyre’s very real promise.
Reviewed by Jennifer Merk