The Cracked Mirror (by Chris Brookmyre)


Chris Brookmyre’s *The Cracked Mirror* is an enthralling crime novel that intertwines intricate plotting, layered characters, and sharp social commentary. Known for his distinctive blend of dark humor and suspense, Brookmyre once again delivers a compelling narrative. There are comparisons with Richard Osman’s *Thursday Murder Club*, and Michael Connelly’s *Bosch* series.

The novel opens with Penny Coyne, a retired schoolteacher with a penchant for puzzles, discovering a cryptic note alongside a dead body near her local church in the rural Scottish village of Kilchrist. The note, which hints at long-buried secrets and a past crime, propels Penny into an investigation that quickly becomes more personal than she anticipated.

Parallel to Penny’s story, we meet Johnny Hawke, a seasoned LAPD detective whose recent actions have left him on forced leave. Johnny’s narrative begins with him receiving an unexpected inheritance from a distant relative in Scotland, drawing him across the ocean to a land that is as foreign to him as the concept of a quiet life.

As Johnny arrives in Scotland, his path crosses with Penny’s. Their investigations intertwine when they discover that the murder Penny is investigating and the inheritance Johnny received are two ends of the same tangled web of deceit and betrayal.

The plot thickens as Penny and Johnny uncover clues leading them to a decades-old unsolved case involving a missing heirloom, a forbidden love affair, and a secret society with ties to both the Scottish and American underworlds. As they dig deeper, they find themselves facing not only the complexities of the case but also the shadows within their own lives.

The novel’s climax is a high-stakes confrontation where Penny and Johnny,with their complementary skills and perspectives, unravel the mystery. They expose a conspiracy that challenges their understanding of justice and retribution, forcing them to confront the moral ambiguities of their work.

Brookmyre’s prose is a masterclass in balancing humour and gravity. His characters are richly drawn, and their inner worlds are as compelling as the external mystery. The novel’s strength lies in its ability to maintain a brisk pace while allowing for moments of introspection and character development.

When placed alongside Richard Osman’s “Thursday Murder Club,” “The Cracked Mirror” presents a darker, more complex world. Osman’s series, set within the confines of a retirement village, is a delightful romp through the world of amateur sleuthing, marked by its light-hearted tone and endearing characters. In contrast, Brookmyre’s work is a more nuanced exploration of the genre, weaving together elements of traditional mystery with the grittier aspects of crime fiction.

Michael Connelly’s “Bosch” series stands as a pillar of the genre, known for its unflinching portrayal of detective work and the moral ambiguities that come with it. “The Cracked Mirror,” while sharing the procedural detail of Connelly’s work, distinguishes itself through its dual narrative and the cultural juxtaposition of its settings.

Final Thoughts: “The Cracked Mirror” is a testament to Brookmyre’s versatility as a writer. It is a novel that will resonate with aficionados of crime fiction who appreciate a story that can both entertain and provoke thought. With its clever plot and memorable characters, Brookmyre’s latest offering is a reflection of the genre’s potential to evolve and captivate.

Review copy from Netgalley; Publication date: 18th July 2024

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