Christopher Brookmyre






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.

Sep 2007


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