It's an aspect of human nature that when we encounter something new, we seek to compare and contrast it with past experiences: we seek similarities and differences. So when we opened "Want You Gone" by Chris Brookmyre and started reading, it didn't take long for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" to come to mind. An established male journalist who's been round the block a few times is thrown together by circumstances with a much younger female computer hacker, and it becomes clear they must cooperate in order to resolve a mystery whose consequences are likely to be highly dangerous for each of them. The similarities to Stieg Larsson's classic are fairly obvious. Having pigeon-holed "Want You Gone" once, we then decided it needed to be re-categorised as the action took on the feel of something out of "Mission Impossible". And then...
But that's the thing about Chris Brookmyre. His books may have superficial trappings that remind you of other points of reference, but he always manages to surprise the reader with delightfully novel excursions and reversals. His last book, "Black Widow" could be seen as a traditional "whodunit", except that the author uncloaked the identity of the murderer within the first few pages, and did it in such a way as to leave the reader gripped by the compulsion to find out "how" and "why". So it is with "Want You Gone". Nothing is quite what it seems, and the author's ability to surprise the reader is demonstrated throughout this highly entertaining thriller, from starting positions that feel familiar via some lovely twists and turns to a conclusion that is beautifully veiled from sight and marvellously constructed.
Chris Brookmyre's readers have encountered Jack Parlabane before. He's a world-weary and decidedly shop-worn investigative journalist who made a name for himself early in his career through a series of scoops that were often gained through a highly flexible approach to journalistic ethics and to the law. But then he over-reached himself, or was trapped into doing so, and crashed and burned spectacularly, his reputation in ruins. Jack has come to London from Edinburgh in pursuit of a job that could resurrect his career, and a high-profile hack of a major bank seems to offer just the story he needs to establish his credentials. But that's when things really begin to go off the rails for him.
Meanwhile, Sam Morpeth is a young woman without her troubles to seek. Her mother has been sent to prison and Sam, though still at school, is left to care for her younger sister and fend off the unwanted predations of drug-dealing contacts of her mother. And things only get worse when someone tries to blackmail her online. Sam and Jack make unlikely allies, but the story that is told from their alternative perspectives is hugely entertaining, deeply compelling and utterly gripping.