Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Snowball in Hell by Christopher Brookmyre

Published: Little Brown, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4087-0062-4
Pages: 393

First line: Ladies and gentlemen, roll up! Roll on up! Step inside!

Are you sick of reality tv? Tired of the endless parade of vapid ‘celebrities’ it creates? Simon Darcourt is, and his response to it is certainly turning (and in some cases, removing) heads. Darcourt, aka the Black Spirit, is a hired assassin who has been keeping a low profile ever since the spectacular failure of his last job. But now he's decided to come out of retirement, and with the help of the Internet, is creating quite a stir with his very own reality show, one that his celebrity contestants are literally dying to be part of.

With the body count rising, the police call in Detective Angelique de Xavia, formerly a Glasgow police officer who is now working with an anti-terrorism task force based in Paris. Angelique has crossed paths with Darcourt before and knows how dangerous he is. She also knows that if she is going to stop him, she is going to need help – the special kind of help only her old lover Zal Innez, bank robber and magician, can provide. But first she has to find him, and then keep him from being arrested.

A SNOWBALL IN HELL brings together characters from two of Brookmyre’s previous books, A BIG BOY DID IT AND RAN AWAY and THE SACRED ART OF STEALING in a story that is a witty, sharp and sarcastic poke at the cult of celebrity. Nothing is as it seems in this book, and just when you think you’ve finally figured out what’s really going on, Brookmyre pulls off another twist. Although it takes a while to set up all the characters and bring them together, the complex and pacy plot makes this darkly comic book a real page turner.

This is Brookmyre in full rant mode and his amusing diatribes on celebrity and media struck a chord with me. He seems to be one of those authors you either ‘get’ or you don’t, and if, like me, you are in the first category, then you’ll love this book. While reading this, I did start to wonder what sort of person Brookmyre had turned me into, as I at times found myself rather guiltily cheering on Darcourt and laughing at some very gruesome, albeit imaginative, murders!

Christopher Brookmyre’s website is well worth a look.

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