Where the Bodies Are Buried
Christopher Brookmyre
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Buy *Where the Bodies Are Buried* by Christopher Brookmyreonline

Where the Bodies Are Buried
Christopher Brookmyre
Atlantic Monthly Press
304 pages
July 2012
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Girl power is on considerable display in Brookmyre’s cunning Scottish thriller, when women are pitted against good cops and bad cops in a city where old alliances and old habits die hard. A striking example of a suspense writer working at the top of his form, Where the Bodies Are Buried is a tense exercise in duplicity featuring Detective Catherine McLeod and failed actress Jasmine Sharp as they delve deep into the underbelly of Glasgow’s organized crime scene.

A mugginess is in the air, the urban Glaswegian landscape awash in heroin. Local drug dealer Jai Mcdiarmid is found beaten and possibly tortured, a shot to the forehead in a close-range execution style, his body abandoned in front of the tanning salon he owned. Reflecting all of the colorful contacts of the late Mr. MacDiarmid’s lifestyle, Catherine discovers that the salon was indeed a money-laundering front in which punters were paying cash for “legit” drug takings.

From the very beginning, Catherine hits several road blocks in her investigation. Her boss tells her that it’s "counterproductive" to get murdering drug dealers off the streets--perhaps because the brass know how a bunch of career criminals can organize the business of supply, distribution, and revenue collection. There’s also the matter of the older polis, who are "skint" despite working hard all their lives. They’ve done their “thirty” and are approaching retirement, but their situation has made them cynical--especially when they see criminals miscreants and psychos, like Frankie Callahan, Bill Raeside, and Gary Fleeting basking under layers of pretension and spending money like water.

Meanwhile, Jasmine’s uncle Jim Sharp, a retired ex-cop and private investigator has gone missing. Jim was recently hired by Ann Ramsey to look into the whereabouts of her parents and baby brother, who disappeared in 1983 like fairy-tale characters gripped in temporal stasis by an evil spell. Convinced there’s dirty work afoot, Jasmine goes on the hunt assisted by the enigmatic Tron Ingrams. The race to find her uncle heats up, and Jasmine finds herself hijacked by everyone who has a grudge. She senses Ingrams is in trouble but is unable to imagine how to help. Realizing there is more to his cool demeanor than at first appears, Jasmine is thrust into a violent mix of good and evil, wondering at what point she can gain anybody’s trust. While Ingrams shows that “you can leave behind a name but you can’t escape who you are,” there’s a sense that someone with a lot of hidden connections is out to sabotage them both.

The novel is a whodunit of both personal and professional intrigues. Catherine, attempting to juggle motherhood and marriage with her career, finds an easy camaraderie with her partner Laura, offsetting some of the more gruesome aspects of the investigation. Jasmine sees her new job with Jim as a chance to finally put her mother’s death behind her, even when faced with cold, unambiguous certainty when a series of inexplicable digital figures on Jim’s office computer give her the clues she's been looking for.

Glasgow is a city of more than a few a dirty little secrets. From Bay Tree’s glitzy restaurants to the dark heart of gangland, Catherine is betrayed in a landscape where the press constantly harp on about gang wars, drug wars, and turf wars, and where certain folks don’t plan too far ahead when it comes to violence. When three bodies turn up all double-tapped execution style and left to rot in a warehouse near Blantyre, the investigation shifts, bringing a new set of problems even as the collision between Jasmine, Catherine, and Ingrams, and the frantic pleas of the “old school crooks” take on a life of their own.

The story of who does what to whom and why is complicated, bringing to a boil the simmering connection between Jasmine, Ingrams, and Catherine. Not for the faint of heart, Brookmyre brings a sly sense of self-reference to his story, culminating in a nightmare of surprises that links the cruel present to a violent past.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Michael Leonard, 2012

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