RogerBW's Blog

Not the End of the World, Christopher Brookmyre 16 May 2021

1998 tartan noir. Los Angeles is losing itself in millennial fever, but that won't stop the hawkers of cheap film from having their show. Even if there's a fundie across the road who's talking about God sending a tidal wave to wipe out their filth…

This is a story with multiple plotlines and viewpoints, but the main two are those of Larry Freeman (LAPD detective, seen briefly in Quite Ugly One Morning, here mostly looking after the film market but also looking into the disappearance of the crew of an oceanographic research ship) and Steff Kennedy, Scottish photographer. This was Brookmyre's third book, and first non-Parlabane, and he sensibly manages to keep Freeman and Kennedy separate most of the time: they're a bit too similar in thought and voice, a bit too much "the one sensible person in all this madness" even beyond both being tall men who don't really fit in.

There's incident (particularly memorably involving a rooftop swimming pool) and investigation, but also lots of divergence, flashbacks filling in the details of events we've already pieced together in their essentials as well as giving various bits of backstory, particularly about how the fundie got that way. One major plot element seems to have an obvious solution, particularly given where all this is happening, but apparently only one person has thought of it and he's on the side of good so that's all right.

The major flaw, though, is that all the villains are religious and all the religious people are villains. There's no room in this simplistic morality for actual true believers, or even for boring old non-godly bad guys. Yes, I know Brookmyre is an atheist – so am I – but that doesn't make all religious people frauds, or even just stupid; the villains are definitely the weak points here. And the porn star may have some lines about taking control of her sexuality, but she also has a pat history of childhood abuse which (since she's the only porn star in the book) makes it feel as though Brookmyre can't bear to write a non-broken woman who'd get involved in porn.

But apart from those problems of characterisation the thing works well, fits together and moves at a decent clip, with Brookmyre's writing clear and crisp as ever; it stands up well to re-reading.

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