30 May 2014 Leave a comment
Author: Chris Brookmyre
Summary: Private investigator Jasmine Sharp’s father was murdered before she was born, and her mother went to self-sacrificing lengths in order to shield her from the world in which he moved. Since her mother’s death, all she has been able to learn is his first name – and that only through a strange bond she has forged with the man who killed him: Glen Fallan. But when Fallan is arrested for the murder of a criminal her mother knew since childhood, Jasmine is finally forced to enter his domain: a place where violence is a way of life and vengeance spans generations.
Detective Superintendent Catherine McLeod has one major Glaswegian gangster in the mortuary and another in the cells for killing him – which ought to be cause for celebration. Catherine is not smiling, however. From the moment she discovered a symbol daubed on the victim’s head, she has understood that this case is far more dangerous than it appears on the surface: deeper than skin, darker than blood; something that could threaten her family and end her career.
As one battles her demons and the other chases her ghosts, these two very different detectives will ultimately confront the secrets that have entangled both of their fates since before Jasmine was even born.
Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5
Review: Flesh Wounds = ((Gangster history lessons + Revenge) x (Police + Sharp Investigations)) ^ Secrets + Mystery
It has been almost two years since i last read a Brookmyre book. That makes it almost two years since i last wrote a book summary equation. (They’re fun, but for some reason i’ve only ever done them for Brookmyre books.)
You wont catch me with many bad things to say about a Brookmyre book, and this is no exception. So, let’s start with the good.
Female characters. I won’t deny i prefer classic Christopher Brookmyre more; the bizarre characters (Spammy forever), the outlandish situations and the big laughs. But what the Sharp Investigations series has that they didn’t is a concentrated wealth of strong females, including the two leads, Jasmine Sharp and Catherine McLeod. It’s so refreshing to read, especially from a male writer who’s actually doing it well. They aren’t all the same female with different names. They aren’t all stereotypically feminine. They are individual, well-rounded characters who happen to be female. Brookmyre is doing females here better than some female authors, and that’s because he’s doing characters, and he excels at that.
Plots and sub-plots and sub-sub-plots. A couple of times it was difficult for me to remember who was what and what was where and where was when, but the detail and history and plots that are weaved in this book (in this series) are incredible. I want a peek at Brookmyre’s notes to see how he’s managed to keep all the facts organised.
An event (a death, a conversation, a deal, an arrest) can be mentioned almost off-handedly, or only briefly referenced, then pages and chapters later in a flashback chapter we get to see it played out in full (and even then it might not be the main point of the scene). Once i was left thinking, “Is that the guy whose death was mentioned earlier? His name rings a bell. It must be. So this is how he died. (I think.)”
Other sub-plots include the budding romance of two more minor characters, McLeod’s children’s penchant for violence and Jasmie’s Aunt’s lesbianism. These things don’t advance the main plot of the book–they advance the development of the characters. (Have i mentioned how good the characters are?)
Points of view. There are many. The main two for most of the book are Jasmine and McLeod, but the book is spattered with others. Some get a three or four chapters, others only one. It’s the kind of thing that could leave the reader confused, but in this case it just… doesn’t. It works well with the plots and sub-plots that are woven, letting them all exist in their own sections of the book. It helps everything be kept clearer, until all the threads start to meet towards the climax of the book.
I think really there are only two things i can say i didn’t like about this book. The first was that i would have preferred more Jasmine. For a book in the “Sharp Investigations” series, this book felt very much dominated by the police investigation and characters. This isn’t “bad”; it worked, it’s just not what i would have preferred.
The only other thing that didn’t work (for me, personally) were some of the attempts at mystery and twists. I have a knack for seeing twists coming (not always, but often), so this isn’t completely a reflection of the book. But it felt far too often hints were made at ~something~ that was supposed to keep the reader in suspense until it was revealed, but i would just think, “Okay, so [this is what that’s about].” And it left me a little disappointed, because to me it was so obvious. The biggest of these were the chapters scattered through the book about a young girl growing up on a farm. She is very carefully left unnamed, which told me she was someone we know–that this was a flashback plot. Process of elimination quickly lead me to who it was before the end of the first of these chapters, and i was already working things out about her history, character and motivations in the present-plot. Which isn’t a bad thing, you might say. And i would agree–but not for a first read through; it shouldn’t have been that obvious. I can’t let myself judge too harshly on this, though, because as i said, i am prone to noticing the hints and putting things together quicker than the dramatic reveals plans for.
Ultimately, this book was really great. When someone writes characters and invents plots as well as Brookmyre, he could write about anything and i would read it. And really, the last paragraph of the book has left me happily craving the next!