Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre: Book Review

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.

5 thoughts on “Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre: Book Review

  1. Margaret – I too loved this book. That whole graphic first scene – the first words – even though they were laddish made me want to read it as I could see it was going to be both hilarious and different. Result I was an instant Brookmyre fan, although I haven’t read any of his for a couple of years now giving me several to catch up on.

    My favourite is ‘The Sacred Art of Stealing’. It’s quite brilliant and has a striking female lead and resonates with both Elmore Leonard’s ‘Out of Sight’ and ‘The Thomas Crown Affair’. I’d recommend it for your next Brookmyre read.


  2. Margaret – I know what you mean about graphic scenes. Sometimes they put me off, too. But, as you say, sometimes it’s worth getting through them if the book is a good one. I’m glad you enjoyed this one. And it’s a bonus, isn’t it, if one also finds the author engaging.


  3. Margaret, I was intrigued to know what you would think of this book, because the beginning is so thoroughly horrible! But he can be very funny. I felt more ambivalent about one of his later books, A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil, partly because it reminded me very strongly of my pretty grisly school years. It still made me laugh out loud at times though.

    I like the sound of The Sacred Art of Stealing (thanks, Annabel), so I’ll look for it in the library.


  4. Annabel, thanks for the recommendation. I’ll look forward to reading that one.
    Mystica, I hope you can get hold of one of his books!
    GeraniumCat, it is one of the most awful descriptions I’ve read and I nearly didn’t carry on.


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