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A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil…

A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil (original 2006; edition 2007)

by Christopher Brookmyre

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4581322,714 (3.76)52
Title:A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil
Authors:Christopher Brookmyre
Info:Abacus Books (2007), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 416 pages
Collections:Great comics

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A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil by Christopher Brookmyre (2006)



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really fun ( )
  Felicity-Smith | May 29, 2016 |
This is nominally a crime novel, but with an interesting twist, in that the roots of the crime lay in the childhoods of the characters involved, all of which means we could go on a hilarious tour through their primary/secondary school years. This author has a firm handle on what makes children tick, and the shifting nature of friendships, as well as how incredibly cruel they can be to one another. I always wondered what rules governed the apparent free-for-all football sessions that went on during every break and lunch time at school, and now it has all been explained for me! There were some tremendous comedy set-pieces here too: the Betamax chapter was a particular highlight. I didn't fully understand the present-day crime sections: it was all a bit too complicated for my little brain, but with a back-story this good, who cares. ( )
  jayne_charles | Jan 4, 2016 |
Going back and forth from the present to the past, this tells of the murder of two men, the arrest of two more, the arresting officer and a big-time lawyer. The fact that everyone involved has been connected to one another either by blood or by being schoolmates in a small Scottish village is examined, as well as how being labeled as a "brain" or "thief" affected their lives.

Really well done, with complex, realistic characters that evolve as they age. There's also a useful glossary of Scottish words explained, such as "haun: the end of the forelimb on human beings, monkeys, etc. utilizing opposable thumbs in order to grasp objects. Also the appendages dragged along the ground at the end of Old Firm supporters' sleeves." ( )
  mstrust | Apr 27, 2015 |
This is a fantastic title, but I've felt very restless with this book. Probably a case of the wrong book at the wrong time, as I normally enjoy Brookmyre's work and did enjoy some aspects of this particular book, but not enough to continue. This tells two parallel stories: one is set in the past and follows a group of children at a primary school, and the second is a murder investigation in the present day involving some of those children, now grown up. The past story is highly amusing (and disgusting; bodily humour is a key part of primary-school life, so if that's not your thing, fair warning), but I found myself getting the cast of characters mixed up, and then when the present-day story came back, it wasn't long enough for me to remember who was who. I'll have to try this one again another time.
  rabbitprincess | Nov 30, 2014 |
Someone on the internet recommended Brookmyre to me when I expressed a desire for relief from Patricia Cornwell. So, finally, I gave it a whirl.

I couldn't re-read Grisham, or Cornwell, or Reichs, but I feel I could actually re-read this one. My problem with crime thrillers is that they are all plot – all about a highly contrived tightly plotted gallop to the denouement – even in say Cornwell, where there is always a sub-plot of sorts about Scarpetta's on/off relationship. Consuming these books is an airless, obsessive, totally compulsive exercise, in the way of food which you gobble quickly as it is so yummy and when you finish, gasping for breath and venting the occasional burp, you feel slightly sick and self-indulgent. Whereas by far the majority of Brookmyre's story details the progress, from first day at primary school, to leaving school in the 1980s, of an assortment of characters whose Brownian motion in part has generated the crime and its aftermath. There's bags of character and development thereof, smart dialogue, brilliantly realised school scenes, and lashings of wicked humour. I was a bit dismayed on page one with the torrent of foul-mouthed Scottish English, half afeared I were to be subjected to an Irvine Welsh murder mystery, or worse, but very soon I accustomed myself to the milieu. A bad-word count would teeter constantly in the red, but it never felt gratuitous; on the contrary it recalled all too clearly the chronic moronic talk of my teen coevals back in the 1970s. Not the least of the book's virtues is the delightful Glossary of dialect words and phoneticisms at the end, where the authorial voice slides wickedly between orotund Standard English and blunt Scottish English, with plentiful sideswipes at football teams and referees inimical to his beloved St Mirren. Fascinating, with a suspense for a change not depending solely upon the crime's solution; skilfully and confidently executed; funny. ( )
  sagitprop | Nov 5, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)

This starts with a blizzard of expletives as a pair of former classmates attempt, comically unsuccessfully, to get rid of two bodies. One of them is soon picked up by the police but the other is gravely ill in hospital after being stabbed in the eye. The first suspect asks for another former classmate, Martin Jackson, now a successful media lawyer in London, to help clear him.

The female Detective Superintendent in charge of investigating the case is also a former classmate.

While I did not require it I can understand why Brookmyre (or his publishers) thought it necessary to include a glossary at the back. Anyone not brought up in Scotland - probably the west of Scotland at that - might otherwise barely decipher a fair bit of the dialogue and prose. Said glossary is a mine of delightful usages, Brookmyre’s predilections (diddies is defined not only as mammary glands but also as, “See Greenock Morton FC,” plus there are repeated references to St Mirren wins over the Old Firm and sore points about refereeing decisions against them about which Brookmyre is clearly not bitter, not at all, and various derogatory terms are said to apply to Scottish broadsheet literary critics, about whom ditto) and is also extremely funny to those in the know, especially about the seat of the intelligences of Old Firm supporters.

The portrayal by Brookmyre of a West of Scotland (Paisley) Catholic schooling is bleak, not so much because of the adults in authority - though they get their fair share of disapprobation - but for the apparently unremitting viciousness and one-upmanship of the children one to another.

As to the novel’s flaws, jump cuts are frequent and sudden, there are too many characters, the murder plot which is used to draw us in to the action is perfunctory at best and some of the clues necessary to unravelling the mystery are given far too late but Brookmyre’s focus is more on the children’s school lives.

The glossary at the end is alone worth the admission, though.

One quibble. North of the Clyde the word skoosh is very definitely reserved for a carbonated drink - scoosh is what it does when you open the bottle after all – and never, as Brookmyre has it, for the uncarbonated variety.
added by jackdeighton | editA Son Of The Rock, Jack Deighton (Dec 12, 2010)
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For Gerard Docherty and Allan McGuire.

And in memory of David Welsh.

Twenty years on, I'm not missing you any less.
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'Are they deid? Jesus Johnnybags, are they both deid? Fuck's sake, man, answer us. Fuck's sake.'
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Does knowing someone since childhood enable one to know who is capable of killing in adulthood? Or is there some nugget in their shared experience which explains the murder scene in the hills outside Glasgow?

(summary from another edition)

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