A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away
is the 6th novel from the Scottish
crime writer Christopher Brookmyre
. Published in 2001 it takes a departure from Brookmyre's previous work, junking the character of journalist
Jack Parlabane, replacing him with a brand new cast of characters, and rather then exploring the corruption
of the great and the good
, the target this time is terrorism
The main terrorist featured here is not religiously or ideologically motivated, but operates purely for financial gain and a misanthropy brought on by the travails of the daily commute in an Aberdeen lacking a third bridge over the loudly flowing river Don. A successfully faked death has enabled our particular terrorist to execute a number of complete missions, but his latest venture is leading him back to Scotland, where upon arrival he is recognized by an old student friend.
Removing this ex-friend then becomes an additional goal in his mission plan, with which he is assisted by a clutch of free-lance terrorist colleagues, going by codenames referring to members of the Sex Pistols, the Clash and Queen (yes, that does mean there are two Jones). Fortunately graduation from the stormtrooper academy of terrorist training has left these colleagues just inept enough to be foiled by an unlikely coalition.
This coalition consists of Raymond Ash, the afore-mentioned friend, a computer geek turned English teacher complete with wife and new-born child. Ray is pondering what happened to all the hopes and dreams and traveling the world buggery bollocks ambitions he once had when he encounters a face from the past, closely followed by an attempt on his life. Events then lead him to place a far higher value on his FPS-ing skills, honed by evenings and weekends of network play on Quake, then he ever could have imagined.
The next is DI Angelique de Xavia, of Strathclyde Police who is working the anti-terrorist detail. Angelique ticks many boxes for the PC police as she is a female, Asian police officer with a weegie accent who happens to support Rangers. She's also a bit of whiz at the old martial arts which may prove to come in handy for those third act hi-jinks.
Rounding out our forces for good are two twelve year old Glaswegian truants, Lexy and Wee Murph, who pick the wrong van at the wrong time to have a 'wee shuftie' around in. Luckily the raw experiences of life at an inner-city comprehensive give them the necessary skills for them to wage an unconventional warfare on the balaclavered.
This is another fun book from Brookmyre, moving at a cracking pace with lots of spot-on observations of life in Scotland. The characters are well presented and believable, and only on a few occasions does the polemic of Brookmyre's (very funny) rants about life, the universe and everything intrude. There are a number of laugh out loud set-pieces, particularly a good lesson on what not to do when you're sleeping with the girl of your dreams for the first time. One flaw is the length of the book, at 500 pages it could do with a little of the fat being removed, there is a little bit too much of the 'what crazy antics I got up to at university reminiscing' that is ripe for the chop.
If you've read Brookmyre before you can guess what to expect, stylistically his books are very much peas in the pod. If not then if you're a Scottish, leftish, football fan, who plays too many computer games, enjoys the type of rock'n'roll that doesn't get played on the radio and the odd piece of gratuitous violence for your entertainment before bedtime then you will find much to relish here. Otherwise, accepting you can cope with the Scottish vernacular, a playgroundful of profanity and aren't especially squeamish then you should be dragged along for the ride too.