Change in direction

I've always loved Christopher Brookmyre's writing. I've read several of his earlier works - A tale etched in blood and hard black pencil, Attack of the unsinkable rubber ducks, The sacred art of stealing. They're difficult to describe, even harder to classify, but they're basically crime / thrillers immersed in a deep vein of black humour, with sometimes the humour being more to the front than the crime / thriller element.

It's a long time since I'd last read a Brookmyre, but as I had to visit Edinburgh in December and happened to be in a bookshop, I was seduced by a dose of Tartan-noir. And I was surprised, as Brookmyre seems to have taken a bit of a change of direction.

For a start he is no longer Christopher but "Chris". And When the devil drives is a very different kettle of fish to the Brookmyre I'd read previously. There's much less humour, and it is more of a straight crime story. So, was I disappointed? After all it's always difficult when a favourite author suddenly seems to change direction.

The answer should be yes, but this was such a classy crime story, it's emphatically no. In fact this was one of the best modern crime novels I've read in a long time. Jasmine Sharp, failed actress, novice PI, is asked to find a missing person; a woman who's been missing for 30 years. Jasmine has no great hopes of finding her, but is disconcerted to discover that she's not the only person to be interested in her investigation. When one of Jasmine's early contacts is shot dead at a theatrical performance apparently by a professional hitman, this looks like one long-dead crime that is desperate to leap back to life...

I loved this novel. Crime story was well constructed. Great characters - feisty yet vulnerable Jasmine is a joy as is Catherine MacLeod the leading police character. Black and white comes in plenty of shades of grey here with the elite of Glasgow's gangland scene having redeeming features, while the good are nowhere near as good as they would like to be portrayed. And the Scottish countryside is pretty special too.

This was a really good detective novel. Just don't plan to do anything else at the weekend, you won't be able to stop till you finish it.


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