Cover of Boiling a Frog

Boiling a Frog
Christopher Brookmyre
402 pages
published in 2000

Allegedly, the way to boil a live frog is to put it in a pan with cold water and slowly rise the temperature; this way, the animal will only notice it is being boiled to death when it is too late. This has become a metaphor for any undesireable process, political or otherwise, which takes place gradually and where it's difficult to draw a bright line where things become unbearable.

In this case, it's Jack Parlabane who's the frog. You may know Jack from earlier Brookmyre novels as a investigative journalist not adverse to a bit of breaking and entering if it can get him a story. I didn't, as this was the first of the Parlabane novels I read. It would've been nice if there had been any indication that this was part of a series on the book anywhere...

Anyway, as Boiling a Frog opens, Jack's "unorthodox" working methods have finally caught up with him and he's in prison following a bungled burglary of the headquarters of the Scottish Catholic Church, looking for evidence of a scandal that wasn't real.

Or was it? Jack might just've been the victim of one of the more repulsive p.r. campaigns in history, designed to return the Catholic Church as the moral centre of Scotland, away from the scandals that had eroded its authority...

Like Ian Rankin, Brookmyre has a good grip on contemporary Scotland and its politics. They share a similar outlook on Scottish life, but Brookmyre has a dark humour Rankin lacks. In some ways, this reminded me of some of Iain Banks non-science fiction novels as well, like Complicity. Jack Parlabane himself is quite the cynic, at times a not very likeable character, but kept bearable by his own cynicism.

I quite liked Boiling a Frog, though I suspect I would have enjoyed it even more had I read the earlier books in the Jack Parlabane series. there were quite a few oblique references to earlier adventures that I knew were references, but not what to, if you see what I mean.

A warning for those who dislike seeing their own or others' church attacked: Brookmyre takes a sledgehammer to the Catholic Church in this novel, perhaps not entirely undeservedly, but it isn't subtle and it doesn't leave much room for shades of grey. I didn't mind that much, but others may.

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Webpage created 11-08-2004, last updated 04-06-2005
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