Jasmine Sharp, the drama school dropout who became an unlikely Glasgow PI in Where the Bodies Are Buried (2012), looks into the 1981 disappearance of a young actress—a case that overlaps a fresh murder investigation in the Highlands by Detective Superintendent Catherine McLeod.
The orphaned daughter of an actress, Jasmine got her start as an investigator when her uncle, Jim, an ex-cop, convinced her she could use her thespian skills working for his investigative agency. Having inherited the company following Jim's disappearance and murder, Jasmine is hired by a woman to find out what happened to her younger sister Tessa, who fell off the face of the earth in 1981. After Jasmine questions hotshot theater producer Hamish Queen, whom Tessa was last seen working for, he is shot dead by a sniper at a performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream outside a castle. Catherine, who has been arguing with her husband over their teenage son's desire for a sniper-themed video game, finds herself on the trail of a real-life shooter. Jasmine, with the help of Glen Fallan—the mysterious gangland enforcer who became her guardian angel in Where the Bodies Are Buried—overcomes threats to her well-being to uncover a conspiracy involving drugs, sex, satanic cults and changed names. Brookmyre pushed against the restraints of crime fiction with his "Tartan noir" series featuring investigative reporter Jack Parlabane and his outlandish satirical novels. But following the very good Bodies, which returned him to mainstream fare, he's in tame whodunit mode. The flashback plot is tired. The scaling back of Catherine's presence denies us the pleasure of seeing the two female investigators cross paths. And though never less than likable, Jasmine loses charm as she gains confidence, something one hopes the author will reverse in future books.
With its running social commentary and bits on Scottish theater and politics, this is an entertaining book. But its predecessor was livelier and more brimming with incident.