Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre begins with a graphic description of a particularly nasty murder scene, which is normally guaranteed to make me stop reading. But it would have been a great shame if I’d let it put me off this book, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was published in 1998 when it won the First Blood Award for best crime novel of that year.
The dead man is Dr Ponsonby, a well- respected doctor working for the Midlothian NHS Trust in Edinburgh. Investigative journalist, Jack Parlabane gets involved as he lives in the flat above Ponsonby and the terrible smell (think blood, poo and sick) coming up from below leads him into the murder scene. It soon becomes apparent to the reader who did the murder and it is the motive behind it that needs to be ferreted out.
The book alternates between current events and the back stories of the characters – Dr Ponsonby, his ex-wife Sarah, Stephen Lime, the Chief Executive of the Midlothian NHS Trust and above all Jack Parlabane. This is not a police procedural, and Inspector McGregor, in charge of the investigation, has just a little input. It’s fast, full of action, and surprisingly funny. There are some really despicable characters and Jack himself is not a shrinking violet – but I liked him.
I went to see Christopher Brookmyre this week at an author event in Livingston. He’s an excellent speaker and very funny too. He read an extract from his latest book, Pandaemonium, but he’s written quite a lot more which I want to read first. Fortunately my son has all his books, so I’ve borrowed a few.