From the country that gave us Iain Banks, Ian Rankin and Ian MacLean

One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night — Christopher Brookmyre

One-Fine-Day

I got inexplicably not named Ia(i)n Christopher Brookmyre’s 1999 standalone novel One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night for my 40 birthday many years ago; it seems like yesterday!

William Conner is a career soldier turned mercenary turned, finally, criminal and goon wrangler for Dawson, whose current scheme requires a small band of hard bastards. Called in at the last moment, Conner has assembled a small army on the coast of Scotland near the unremarkable town of Auchelea.

It’s not the town that has soldier-for-hire Dawson’s attention. It’s the oil platform converted into a lavish holiday resort floating offshore of Auchelea. Though not quite finished, the resort is said to be playing host to a group of wealthy venture capitalists, who would be well worth the gang’s time to kidnap.

The idea that they are all billionaire entrepreneurs would be a hell of a surprise to the former students of Auchelea’s St. Michael’s high school, the people who are actually using the converted platform/resort for their school reunion.

To gather a group of experienced thugs as quickly as he did, Conner had to cut corners like “basic competence” and “ability to work together without occasional outbreaks of carnage-filled discord”; his decision to hire from both sides of the Irish conflict proves particularly poorly thought out. Enough of his minions survive the firearm-and-rocket-filled first meet and greet to carry through with the operation, although the rain of body parts from the sky is something of a tip-off to local police retiree McGinty that Something is Up.

Businessman Gavin Hutchison has no idea a small army of armed men are on their way to his financially-challenged resort; his goal is to force his former schoolmates to finally notice him, his wealth, and his beautiful mistress. To that end, he made sure not to invite those classmates who had become celebrities, for fear that they would take the focus off him. This will be HIS show, dammit!

Alas for Gavin, the reunion is definitely not going to go to plan. His long-suffering wife Simone has invited herself and is stealing the spotlight from his mistress. Simone has decided that the reunion will be a fine place to publicly dump her philandering husband; to that end, she has surreptitiously added the school celebrities to the guest list in hopes of even more publicity.

Things don’t go according to plan for Simone either. Conner and his men are not on her expanded guest list, but are going to show up anyway.

But of all the plans that go awry in this story, Conner’s plan meets the most spectacular doom. His goons are more enthusiastic than competent, and his own boss hasn’t been entirely honest with Conner….

Readers will also meet the harmless-seeming Mr. Vale (security consultant) and several interesting alumni: Davie Murdoch (artist and recovering mad bastard) and the disgraced comedian Matt Black. Matt may not have Davie’s colourful history but he does have a powered masonry saw…

-oOo-

Brookmyre isn’t shy about this being Die Hard on a Oil Platform Turned Resort, With Scotsmen In . Very early in this comic novel film buff Allie McQuade avidly discusses the narrative conventions of action films with one of the teachers, a discussion that directly foreshadows much of what is to follow.

Die Hard is action with comedic elements, this is comedy with action elements. While Conner’s men are dangerous and do kill people, they’re also a pathetic assortment of unsympathetic fuck-ups, terrorists, thugs, and mercenaries of no account. These are people whose eventual humiliations or deaths aren’t going elicit sympathy. These are people who couldn’t get through the briefing session without killing each other.

The former students of St. Michael’s, on the other hand, all have issues—but for most part, they are people whose demise the reader would regret. It’s probably for the best that this isn’t the sort of crime novel that ends in cynicism and despair.

One Fine Day takes its time establishing the setting and the characters, but once the action begins, the plot moves forward at increasing speed; I have read and reread this novel several times in the oh god fourteen years! How did I get so old brief time since I was gifted it and I still can’t put it down once I get to the bit with the masonry saw. Thanks to this book, I have purchased every Brookmyre I could find.

Unfortunately, if this particular novel is in print, I am not seeing it. And I looked at the author’s website. Pity.

This novel is available from Little, Brown.


Please note: comments will be read-only for the next week or two; Livefyre has ceased service, and we are doing some site maintenance.