Little, Brown, May 2006
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill
What are your memories of your school days like? Are they happy ones of
children playing in the school yard, with life-long friendships formed and
enlightened teachers who gave you a love of learning? Or were you a loner?
Not really part of any group, perhaps bullied?
Christopher Brookmyreís A TALE ETCHED IN BLOOD AND HARD BLACK PENCIL is
like a wildlife documentary. The playground is a hunting ground for the
predatory looking for any weakness to exploit. Wear the wrong clothes and
youíre a target. Fall behind in the latest slang words and youíre a figure
of fun. The teachers offer no refuge. Most of them are psycho, and those
who arenít donít listen to you. They make snap judgements and deliver
summary justice without listening to your side of the story.
Martin is a successful lawyer living in London. Heís been living the high
life. Heís dated models and pop singers. Itís a long way from his
childhood in Glasgow and St. Elizabethís school. Then Martin receives a
phone call. His best friend in primary school, Noodsy, is in deep trouble.
Heís been arrested for murder and wants Martin to represent him. Martin is
reluctant. Heís a not a defence lawyer; his area of expertise is corporate
law. Against his better judgement he returns to
Glasgow and discovers the officer in charge of the investigation is Karen
Gillespie, another of his former school-mates.
A TALE ETCHED IN BLOOD AND HARD BLACK PENCIL alternates between the past
and the present. We follow the lives of the children from kindergarten
through to the end of high school. We see personalities develop and
friendships and allegiances change. Itís cleverly done. As the past begins
to converge with the present, the reader gains an understanding of the
various personalities and why events have unfolded the way they have.
The use of language in this book may be an issue for many. If profanity
bothers you, donít even open it. Itís littered with four letter words on
practically every page. Brookmyre also makes use of the vernacular of
Glasgow which can be very difficult to follow (there is a glossary of
terms in the back which does help). If you can handle these, A TALE
ETCHED IN BLOOD AND HARD BLACK PENCIL will have you alternatively howling
with laughter and holding back the tears. If thereís not something in this
book that triggers some memories then you never went to school.
Chrisopher Brookmyre is mad, bad, tacky, tasteless, politically incorrect
and laugh-out-loud funny. If you like your humour on the slightly sick
puppy side then youíll love A TALE ETCHED IN BLOOD AND HARD BLACK PENCIL.
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