Now comes a real quandary.
Last evening, late, Malcolm polished off Christopher Brookmyre’s latest, When the Devil Drives.
Malcolm’s considerable enthusiasm for Brookmyre stalled somewhat when the author farmed out Jack Parlabane. The last two books, this one and Where the Bodies are Buried are developing a new series — and, in Malcolm’s reading, are a return to the accessible, hardly-straight, but bolied-hard neo-noir of Parlabane.
Were there any doubt we are meant to see these two as linked, there is the glaring visual clue of the covers. Then we find the two female characters are carried over: the senior and cynical policewoman, Detective Superintendent Catherine McLeod, and the aspirant found PI, Jasmine Sharp. Also along for the ride, riding shotgun for Jasmine, is Glen Fallan, the Glasgow hardman who had topped Jasmine’s father.
This outing has Jasmine engaged to discover what had happened to actress Tessa Garrion, missing these three decades.
All of Brookmyre’s conventional hobbyhorses are allowed a quick trot: the corrupt aristocracy, drugged, drunk and disorderly, the Lowland Scots arty-literati and self-anointing bankers, the sub-insular non-nationalism (a deft reference to “Englandshire”, for one example), the debunking of mysticism and godliness in all its many forms, the left-field social commentaries:
Catherine’s hackles were well-risen by the time she had made it from the front entrance of the Royal Scottish Bank’s ostentatiously plush Edinburgh headquarters to the reception desk on the far side of the lobby, across an expanse of marble floor larger than her garden. Clearly not everybody was quite so struck by the building’s interior splendour as management would like, as there was scaffolding up on two sides as part of a controversial multi-million-pound refit. Having been bailed out by the taxpayer to the tune of eleven figures, i their chastened state it was heartening to see the banks embracing a new era of corporate austerity. We were, let’s not forget, all in this together.
Looking at the opulence of her surroundings, she couldn’t help but think of the condition of most police stations she’d been in recently, and more to the point the state of Duncan and Fraser’s school. It was a flimsy eighties-built one-storey structure that looked like a temporary building-site headquarters, an effect enhanced by a proliferation of men in hard hats who had concluded that the place was literally falling down.
Mustn’t go down that road, though, she thought. That’s the ‘politics of envy’. If anybody in this country eve deserved a slap in the dish with a dead salmon, it was whichever smug and spoiled little prick came up with that one. Execs were trousering bonuses of several million pounds, even for the years in which their companies had recorded a huge loss, while freezing wages down the line where they weren’t simply laying people off. But if you pointed out the inequality of this, that phrase was their catch-all comeback.
That is tailed by a version of the banker, Daily Mail reader, social worker (in this iteration, asylum seeker) biscuit joke.
Monday morning, 2 a.m.
The itch woke Malcolm, as it does each couple of hours.
Apply the itch-cream; reach for another book. The one to hand was, as noted previously, S.J.Parris’s Sacrilege. Before sleep returned Malcolm was a couple of chapters in, and looking good.
Here, to hand, is the latest instalment of Jasper Fforde’s extraordinary imaginings. Short-hand is TN7: the seventh “Thursday Next” novel. In full that’s The Woman Who Died A Lot.
Now, which to read first?
As of this moment, it looks as if Tuesday is squeezing Bruno back to the guilt-pile.
Watch this space.