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by Chris Brookmyre, read by Sarah Barron
Whole Story Audio Books, September 2012
Unabridged pages
25.52 GBP
ISBN: 1471203131

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When I got this audiobook, I thought for a minute that the review copy had been mislabelled. What had they done with the real writer formerly known as Christopher Brookmyre? No swearing, no turds on windowsills, no passion and anger. Instead, there was (in audiobook terms) about half an hour of tell not show musing, and not a sign of dialogue or being introduced to any characters.

Finally, Jasmine Sharp happens along. She's a thwarted actress, forced to drop out of drama school when her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer (incidentally, most colleges allow you to take leave of absence in cases like this, but of course that wouldn't have been convenient for the plot). She ends up working, fairly ineptly, for her uncle's private investigating firm. When he dies, she inherits it, for what it's worth (not a lot).

Jasmine is hired to search for Tessa Garrion, an actress who's been missing for knocking on thirty years. This seemingly routine job becomes decidedly hairy as the enquiry brings all manner of hidden secrets out of the undergrowth. And it suggests that it's probably best not to tangle with theatre luvvies if you value your life ...

The book drifts, and it's clearly a handicap not to have read the previous book WHERE THE BODIES ARE BURIED, which apparently has much of Jasmine and DI Catherine McLeod's back story in. Although I'm not sure that would have entirely helped locating where we are in the plot or timeframe at any given time. And to be honest, McLeod is about as thrilling as the dull and mousy Jasmine I couldn't get excited by her ongoing family angst over whether one of her young sons should be playing violent video games.

WHEN THE DEVIL DRIVES is decently plotted, slickly written and maintains an undercurrent of tension all through, helped along by Sarah Barron's well-pitched reading. And Brookmyre's not channelling Alexander McCall Smith just yet. But it's all rather safe and lacks the spark that ignited the Jack Parblane series. Can we have the old Christopher Brookmyre back, please, and not his staid brother Chris?

Sharon Wheeler is a UK-based journalist, writer and lecturer.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, March 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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