Bred in the Bone: A Jasmine Sharp and Catherine McLeod Novel
Christopher Brookmyre excels. From the titles of his novels (how can one top A TALE ETCHED IN BLOOD AND HARD BLACK PENCIL?) to his ongoing instruction in the marked differences between Glasgow and Edinburgh (cities not even 50 miles apart), Brookmyre is a joy and a pleasure to read for those of us who like our fiction served up dark with humor to match. His latest stateside offering is BRED IN THE BONE (titled FLESH WOUNDS in the United Kingdom), the third in the Jasmine Sharp and Catherine McLeod series and the best thus far.
It takes a confident writer to race an immensely interesting character right out of the gate and then take him off the map within a few pages. Brookmyre does just that with a middle-aged but higher level Glasgow gangster named Stevie Fullerton, who, as BRED IN THE BONE opens, is brooding as he jockeys for position and territory in the city’s all but invisible underworld boundaries. Stevie, however, is not long for this world --- he does for car washes what Sonny Corleone did for toll booths --- and his death results in the inevitable intersection between Jasmine Sharp and Catherine McLeod. The crime scene vignette goes on for a bit and could have lasted 200 more pages. It is done so well, containing all sorts of asides and grimly induced chuckles, from bystander reactions to plays-on-words regarding Metallica songs going back a quarter-century.
"Incapable of writing badly and possessed of an inability to make each and all of his characters unforgettable, Brookmyre is a marvel, and BRED IN THE BONE is nothing less than marvelous."
BRED IN THE BONE is a police procedural, at least in part, and Catherine eventually has a suspect in mind and then in custody. That individual is Glen Fallan, and it is here where the paths of Jasmine and Catherine bend inexorably toward their crossing. Fallan is the man who killed the father Jasmine never met, that tragic fact occasioned as she hadn’t even been born at the time of the man’s demise. It appears that Fallan’s bloody execution of Stevie is an act of revenge some two decades in the chilling, and thus the case is closed...except, as one might expect, there is far more to his death than the apparent open-and-shut arrest of Fallan.
A bloody symbol daubed on Stevie’s head leads Catherine down a path that she does not want to walk, one that has the potential to cause her to lose two of the three things she holds closest and dearest to herself: her husband and her career. Catherine and Jasmine once again find themselves uneasily collaborating in their fashion, pursuing an investigation both official and otherwise as they each discover that their destinies were in some ways determined to cross before Jasmine was even born, and that their futures may be intertwined as well.
Brookmyre is a spellbinding storyteller who, by virtue of the wit and intricateness of his stories, has earned much greater attention on this side of the Atlantic than he has received thus far. Incapable of writing badly and possessed of an inability to make each and all of his characters unforgettable, Brookmyre is a marvel, and BRED IN THE BONE is nothing less than marvelous.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 23, 2014