Just finished the book I'd promised myself as a holiday read - though in fact I kept being too sleepy on Colonsay to read after tramping over the island every day I was there. But the latest Christopher Brookmyre, A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil, proved to be so enjoyable that I now feel quite bereft - a sure sign of a book enjoyed.
This is a murder story, beginning with the bodies and ending as the police and the amateur sleuth piece it all together. So far so traditional. But the bulk of the story takes place many years earlier, as we follow the killers, the victims and the police superintendent through their school days, from the first day in Primary One to the Leavers' Dance. The episodes from school gradually reveal more about the characters and their relationships so that we can start thinking we see it too - though in usual Brookmyre style it's a complicated story. But in addition to the murder plot there is the wonderful recreation of school life in the West of Scotland, so that I recognise some of the odd expressions my kids came home with - "gemmie" was quite new to me when Ewan first came out with it. I also understand for the first time why boys at dances used to lurk annoyingly along the far wall and march off with each other when they might have been dancing - a mystery for the past 48 years, by my reckoning.
I found the descriptions of life in Primary school rang depressingly and hilariously true *, with the mad heidie and the teachers who never listened to anyone and who were as a result doomed to be perpetually unjust, as well as the horrors of the visits to the toilets and braving the Primary 4 playground when you were in Primary 1, and wondered how much my own kids didn't bother to tell me when they were at Primary school. And the dialogue is brilliant - and very, very real.
And just when you think it's all over, there's a glossary for the non-native speaker. It's hilarious. A choice example (well, two examples):
hing : An inanimate object as distinguished from a living being.
hingmy : An all-purpose procrastinatory term for that which one cannot quite think of the name of yet. Equivalent of the French truc.
And if you read it and then find yourself indulging in Central Belt expletives in unsuitable company, don't blame me.
*See comments for further elucidation.