Bred in the Bone is an intense police procedural that is complex, intelligent, puzzling, and riveting.
Part of a series featuring private investigator Jasmine Sharp and Detective Superintendent Catherine McLeod, Bred in the Bone functions as a stand-alone, but makes me want to read the previous books for some back story.
The story is revealed in alternating chapters about Jasmine Sharp, Catherine McLeod, and a young girl whose name is not given. "Past is prologue" to current events.
Information is divulged little by little, keeping the reader in suspense and continuous speculation. This is so skillfully done that you feel as if you are the fly on the wall, observing behaviors and conversations, accumulating information. It isn't so much the use of red herrings, as the lack of information or awareness required to fully evaluate. You get the knowledge when the characters do, and you have more than one character to rely on, yet solving this mystery necessitates following the pace set by the author until the conclusion.
The beginning is a bit slow, but once the initial chapter is out of the way, the novel moves quickly from one character to another as both Catherine McLeod and Jasmine Sharp investigate the murder for different reasons.
Setting is uniquely important in some novels, and the Glasgow underworld is essential to the success of Bred in the Bone. Brookmyre's Glasgow is dark enough, but not as dark as Denise Mina's Glasgow. Brookmyre manages to present the sinister world of Glasgow's criminal society with enough detail to make it abhorrent, but he is also able to put human faces on even the villains.
While it is apparent that some of the characters and situations have been introduced in the previous novels, the author provides enough information for clarity in subtle ways, avoiding long information dumps. A skillful writer, Mr. Brookmyre leads without condescension--keeping the reader guessing, putting together facts and circumstances, and "participating" in the situations is no minor feat.
The novel has side stories that must unite for a clear picture, but the author deftly steers the reader through the details, hints, and innuendos.
Read in November, 2013. Blog post scheduled for May 14, 2014.
Crime/Police Procedural. May, 2014. Print version: 416 pages.