Re: RARA-AVIS: British Noir--Christopher Brookmyre

From: Joy Matkowski (
Date: 30 Jul 2002

I had to hang around a medical imaging facility for most of a day, so I looked for a book in my BritNoir stash that didn't have a gruesome title or a gross cover. _Quite Ugly One Morning_ stars an investigative journalist who stirred up too much trouble in London, fled to Los Angeles, and, having just escaped assassination in LA, arrived in Edinburgh. Hung over and in his underwear, he manages to lock himself out of an apartment a friend has lent him and winds up in the apartment of a man who has been recently, gruesomely, and grossly murdered. Of course, he investigates.
    This is a comic romp, occasionally too much so. His editor could have done him a favor by cutting some of the junior high humor--the bathtub bubbles scene, for example. Then again, he did make me laugh to the extent that people expected me to read the funny part, and how can I explain that a murderer for hire attempting to inject his victim has just stuck the syringe in his own forehead? So you can read the book for laughs, and it works very well.
    But it's also a book of social criticism. Talking heads here in the U.S. tell us that the National Health in Britain doesn't work because of its
"socialism" and that attempts to cure our medical ills with steps in that direction will lead to long waits for urgent surgery, higher death rates, and soon the fall of civilization as we know it. Brookmyre assigns the blame to the Trusts. The Thatcherites apparently invented some combination of HMOs and health insurance companies and then put them in charge of the hospitals. They take the brunt of the comedy-rage, long with venal newspapers and "it must have been a hard-up junkie" police.
    I also learned some sneaking-around tricks. Supposedly, you can hang a picture you took earlier in front of a surveillance camera. The same view will appear on the monitor, although somewhat out of focus, and you'll be hidden behind the photograph.
    A lot of this Britnoir seems to take place north of the border. Is this a new Scottish Renaissance?

Joy, who's just begun _He Died with His Eyes Open_; our protagonist doesn't go out of his way to make friends, does he?

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