One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night by Christopher Brookmyre
Full of delightfully scabrous dark comedy, One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night is a hilariously offbeat novel written by crime fiction author Christopher Brookmyre. Best known today for churning out dozens of superb detective thrillers, Brookmyre’s early work offers lashings of chaotically jet-black humour amidst its faithfulness to whodunit conventions, but there are only a handful which approach the excellence of his 1999 novel.
Set on a former North Sea oil rig which has been converted into a tourist resort, One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night hinges on the premise of a school reunion gone disastrously wrong. The brainchild of rich businessman Gavin Hutchison—who sees this gathering of his ex-classmates as a chance to flaunt his wealth and success—it soon becomes apparent nobody can remember who he is. As a matter of fact, they all have much fonder memories of Gavin’s wife and fellow classmate, Simone, who herself is secretly planning to use the occasion to announce her separation from Gavin and totally ruin his evening.
Little does everybody realise it, but things are about to get even crazier as the floating resort is soon taken over, Nakatomi Plaza-style, by a gang of incompetent terrorist mercenaries, all armed and dangerous, who are quite possibly more of a danger to themselves than they are to the public at large. Having noticed these suspicious goings-on from afar, retired police officer Hector McGregor finds himself embroiled in the chaos after he takes a late-night rowing boat across to the oil rig, only to find his boat perforated with bullets.
Seemingly unable to change out of his pyjamas, Hector spends the rest of the novel like Arthur Dent trying to get to the bottom of what’s going on. As you can probably tell, there’s a freewheeling, absurd abandon to this novel, which ratchets up the tension and keeps upping the ante to outrageous levels, layering the hilarity whilst stakes are raised. Most of the particularly funny elements of this story are the almost cartoony levels of violence and gore we see from the very off (e.g. dismembered limbs are practically flying off within the first few pages after a few bomb-related mishaps).
In one bizarrely memorable moment, with the promise of lovemaking on the cards, a character called Matt Black nips out to buy some condoms, but ends up killing a murderous terrorist with a buzz saw. “I’ll tell you this much: it’s the last time I practise safe sex,” he says to his lover upon his return, covered from head to foot in blood. Such gleeful absurdity is exactly what Christopher Brookmyre excels at, yet there are many other moments in this novel which rival it in terms of sheer, visceral chutzpah.
Naturally, you shouldn’t go for One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night expecting to read an Iain Rankin novel, for though he is also Scottish, Christopher Brookmyre is far more attracted to unconventional, unorthodox plot devices, sharing his fellow countryman Irvine Welsh’s love of a potty-mouth and mid-’90s cinema’s affection for gun-play. That said, there is genuine narrative craft at work here—Brookmyre is not a mere parodist but a true master of suspense in his own right.
By putting his own unique spin on an already-established genre whilst keeping the tension tightly wound as you’d expect any crime writer to do, it’s no wonder that Christopher Brookmyre has gone onto make his name as an author of more serious-minded crime fiction. Provided you suspend your sense of disbelief, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this black comedy as much as I did. One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night is among one of the funniest novels I’ve had the pleasure to read, and that’s truly saying something.
© 2019 Luke Edley
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Humorous fiction writer, poet and novelist. Fond of satire. Interested in comic novels, black comedy and tales of satirical derring-do.