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by Christopher Brookmyre
Little, Brown, February 2004
400 pages
ISBN: 0316726141

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Scottish journalist Jack Parlabane is out of prison and back working on a newspaper. He's gained a certain notoriety, but can't understand why he's specifically been asked by organisers to spend a weekend in the back of beyond on a team-building course, run by the pretentious-sounding Ultimate Motivational Leisure. After all, he's bound to give it all a kicking in print, isn't he?

The main thing you need to know about this book is that the first 75 or so pages are like wading through treacle. There are huge chunks of clunky dialogue between characters which, instead of clueing you in, threaten to throw you straight out of the book. But trust me -- stick with it, as it'll be worth it.

Brookmyre's a satirist with a pebble-dashing approach, so it's not surprising he sometimes misses almost as much as he hits. But when he hits, it's either howl out loud funny or straight to the pit of the stomach. If you need a point of reference, think Carl Hiaasen, but with more convincing characters.

Parlabane and enigmatic photographer pal Vale find themselves in a remote castle with a bunch of fairly unattractive corporate types. It all goes pear-shaped when, out on one of the exercises, they are fired on and chased by soldiers. From then on, make-believe and truth merge lethally.

Brookmyre's come up with a great raft of characters to surround Parlabane. There's vague Sir Lachlan, the owner of the castle, obnoxious chef Mathieson, faintly scary sous-chef Ger, Alison, the faintly bemused young waitress surrounded by a load of barking nutters, brash advertising executive Rory and Emily the right-on leftie.

This isn't Brookmyre's best, and it's not helped by a fairly lame title. It's a fair bet the author really wanted to call it the highly appropriate FUCK THIS FOR A GAME OF SOLDIERS, which is given as an alternative title inside. Oh, and if this shocks you, you won't like the book anyway. And you'll need a very strong stomach. But it'll be your loss if you don't give it a go!

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, February 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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