Not the End of the World by Christopher Brookmyre is a crime thriller set in Los Angeles at the end of the last century when people were in the grip of ’1999 Syndrome’:
1999 Syndrome took plain old Things Are Getting Worse and changed it into Things Are Getting Worse Because The End Is Nigh. Crime used to be seen as instances of anti-social behaviour, sins against society. But now there was this resigned attitude at large that it was indicative of a greater, inexorable process of decay. Each crime now had to Mean Something, each new atrocity held up as the next marker on our descent into uncharted depths of stygia. (page 37)
Synopsis (from Christopher Brookmyre’s website):
The crew of an oceanic research vessel goes missing in the Pacific along with their mini-submarine.
An evangelical media star holds a rally next door to a convention in LA devoted to ‘nubile’ cinematic entertainment.
The cops know there’s going to be trouble and they are not disappointed. What they didn’t foresee was the presence in their state of a Glaswegian photographer with an indecipherable accent and a strong dislike of hypocrisy or of a terrorist who seems to have access to plutonium as well as Semtex.
I became absorbed in this book as I read it. The plot is tightly constructed but the novel is interspersed with details of the main characters’ backgrounds and how they came to have their beliefs and personality traits, which slows down the action somewhat. However, this does flesh out the characters – the tension and drama slowly comes up to boiling point.
Larry Freeman of the LAPD is overseeing security at the Pacific Vista Hotel where the American Feature Film Market is being held. Just over the road the Evangelical Festival of Light is being held, including the Mission of Purity and the American Legion of Decency, led by the TV evangelist and ex-Presidential candidate Luther St John. St John has predicted that time is running out, the countdown has begun and a tidal wave is going to hit LA as God’s punishment for all the evil man has committed. St John’s wrath is also aimed at the ‘Whore of Babylon’, the porn actress Madeleine Witherson, whose father is a Republican Senator. Steff Kennedy is a Scottish photographer who falls in love with Maddy and gets mixed up in the whole scene and the result is chaos. Add into this mix diatribes against fundamental religion and this is the book in a nutshell.
I enjoyed it, but could have done with less detail about the characters’ backgrounds. Brookmyre’s style is snappy, cynical and wise-cracking, although in places I thought it was too wordy. I really liked the ancient history references to the Minoan eruption of Thera (Santorini), one of the largest volcanic eruptions of all time, a ‘devastating caldera eruption’, resulting in one of the largest seismic waves in history. I’d like to find out more about that!
Not the End of the World is Christopher Brookmyre’s third book. He is a Scottish novelist whose novels mix politics, social comment and action with a strong narrative. He has been referred to as a Tartan Noir author.