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by Christopher Brookmyre
Abacus / TimeWarnerUK, October 2002
410 pages
10.99 GBP
ISBN: 0349115540

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Five men dressed as clowns had danced down the street and entered a large bank branch. As soon as the robbers entered, they took the clients and staff prisoner, and politely introduced themselves as Mr. Jarry (the leader), Mr. Ionesco (a dwarf), Mr. Chagall, Mr. Dali, and finally, Mr. Athena (the headbanger). Then they let children, the aged, asthmatics, those with heart conditions and those who were pregnant, go, The windows were covered with a paintlike substance, and the clowns had one of their number entertain the hostages. Unbeknownst to the robbers, one of the executive staff was hidden in the building and was getting text messages out to the police.

Inspector Angelique de Xavia, of the Special Branch Armed Response Unit Special Branch is at a football (soccer) match, when her pager goes off. There is a very strange hostage situation going on in a downtown Glasgow bank, and she is needed. De Xavia has had to be better than others to reach her position, since she is of African descent and an attractive woman to boot. She's "killed more men than she has slept with" , and on this day, her 30th birthday, feels especially vulnerable but she has a deep sense of responsibility, so she goes to work.

Brookmyre is noted for his "Page One" device, He opens a book with off-color or scatological incident, which catches the reader immediately but may not have anything to do with the rest of the story. It's just there to distract the reader. This book is especially full of misdirection and deception, and cultural references, that are usually explained, as below:

"She accepted that the half-wits holding their right arms straight out in front of them at shoulder height during away games should not be surprised if onlookers described them as presenting a Nazi salute (as opposed to a gesture of solidarity with Ulster Loyalists; an important distinction, one being a bunch of thuggish, right-wing ethnic supremacists and the other being German)"

When you pick up a Brookmyre, persevere past the first few pages. The story and characters will catch you and make you think. De Xavia appeared in an earlier book, and one hopes will appear in a future one as well


Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, December 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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