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Literature: A Tale Etched In Blood And Hard Black Pencil
"We could tell you about the bodies. We could tell you their names, where they were found, the state they were in. We could tell you about the suspects too, the evidence, the investigators, join a few dots, even throw you a motive. But what would be the point? You're going to make your own assumptions anyway. After all, you know these people, don't you? You went to school with them. We all did. Granted, that was twenty years ago, but how much does anybody really change? Exactly. If you really knew them then..."

A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil (2006) is Christopher Brookmyre's 10th novel, concerning a Class Reunion under some rather idiosyncratic circumstances. DS Karen Gillespie takes over the investigation of what appears to be a severely bungled double murder committed by two of her former classmates - James "Noodsy" Doon, who has roped in corporate lawyer and fellow alumnus Martin Jackson as his counsel, and Robbie "Turbo" Turner only to discover that the two charred corpses belonged to fellow schoolyard chum, Colin Temple, and Turbo's father, local hardman Johnny Turner.

From then on, the action switches back and forth between their time at school and the case, the true nature of their personalities and the trials and tribulations unfolding in a bitter, acerbic tandem.

This book provides examples of:
  • The Alcoholic: Mrs Fenwick.
  • Alpha Bitch: Jojo, complete with a Girl Posse, though initially she's more of a Scrappy, socially speaking.
  • Ax-Crazy: Johnny Turner and his two eldest sons, Joe and Boma. Momo, the primary school headmaster as well.
  • Butt Monkey: Noodsy, an example that is not played for laughs.
    • Harry Fenwick is another example. In his first appearance, he gets accused by Momo of farting loudly during an assembly, and is only saved when the farter strikes again after Momo had dragged Harry onto the stage and was about to punish him. In his second appearance, he gets attacked on the toilet by Boma. He runs away with his trousers around his ankles and poops on the floor.
  • Catch Phrase: In his younger years, Robbie was fond of calling everyone fucken sooks. Momo took great pleasure in calling children he didn't like vee-lans and bawd iggs.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Martin drops one when Boma throws mud in a friend's face. The ensuing fight goes about as well for Martin as you would expect.
  • The Chew Toy: To the point of Woobie with Noodsy and Elly.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: If Robbie is upset, he tends to become more so when others are sympathetic towards him and try to make him feel better.
  • Driven to Suicide: Mrs Fenwick and Colin.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: The in-universe reaction to someone putting a jar of glue in Robbie's school bag after he'd almost died from sniffing glue.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: The starting point.
  • Fair Cop: Karen.
  • Foreshadowing: In one of the flashbacks, Scot makes a joke about Anna Logue Recordings. In the present day, Colin blackmails councillor Pete Mc Geechy with a recording of him having sex with his wife Anna Logue.
  • The Ghost: Eleanor plays a significant role in the present day plot, but she never appears in person.
  • Humiliation Conga: Momo the primary headmaster loses his power over the children when he gets undermined by a rogue farter during an assembly, culminating in him throwing an epic tantrum on stage that propels his false teeth to the other side of the hall. A year later, he slips on a poo in the corridor and falls into it.
  • Irish Priest: Father Wolfe.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Most of the school-year backflashes.
  • The Reveal: Johnny Turner murdered Charlie Fenwick in 1969 upon learning that he'd had an affair with Johnny's wife, which resulted in the birth of Robbie, making him Eleanor's half-brother. Johnny buried the body under the Bleachfield Hotel, which was being built at the time. This is why he was trying to stop the demolition of the hotel from being approved in the present day.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Noodsy's nickname originates from a rainy playtime when Martin wrote his friends' names backwards.
  • Start of Darkness: Colin's came at the age of 4, with the discovery that he could lie to get himself out of trouble and others into trouble. He only got worse from there.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Martin, Noodsy and Colin. Martin becomes bitter and cynical as he matures, having been shown time and again that nice guys finish last. Noodsy was branded as a lost cause on his first day of school, and years of being blamed for everything whether he was responsible or not led him to become a career criminal. Everyone had made up their minds that he was a thief, so he might as well have something to show for it. As for Colin, he became a bully in secondary school, then went on to set up cameras in his lodges to film the guests having sex and sell the footage to a US porn company. He also murders Johnny Turner and plans on murdering Robbie with the intention of framing Eleanor for the murders, but he can't bring himself to kill Robbie and turns the gun on himself.
  • Scotland
  • Villain Decay: Robbie is the top dog at primary school, but he quickly becomes a joke in secondary school. Character Development kicks in following the glue incident and his Heel Realization.
  • Wham Line: Johnny Turner says of Robbie, "I've supported that useless wee cunt for sixteen fuckin years, and he's no' even mine."

The TakingLiterature of the 2000sThe Tale of Despereaux
Sunny RandallMystery LiteratureTen

alternative title(s): A Tale Etched In Blood And Hard Black Pencil
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