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Quite Ugly One Morning
Christopher Brookmyre

Quite Ugly One Morning
Christopher Brookmyre
Little, Brown & Co.
London 1996
0 316 878 847

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UK Edition:

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


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