An intriguing back-to-front murder mystery story
Like its eponymous hero, British author Brooks's self-assured debut manages to be at once hard-boiled, wide-eyed and despite its downright grisly subject matter laugh-aloud funny. When Martyn Pig accidentally kills his slovenly and abusive alcoholic father several days before Christmas, he decides not to call the authorities: he is afraid the police won't believe him and, besides, he doesn't want his aunt given custody of him. An avid reader of murder mysteries, he instead works with his next-door neighbor (and secret crush), the aspiring actress Alex, first to hide the death, then dispose of the body. As if the plot weren't already thick, Martyn soon discovers that his father recently inherited a handsome sum of money. Just when it seems that Martyn is coolly transforming himself into a junior version of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley, the story takes another hairpin turn. The crisp, perceptive storytelling, like the works of writers Martyn admires (Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie), indirectly but unmistakably raises moral questions. One minor frustration: although the novel is set in England, inconsistent editing has sprinkled the landscape with disorienting Americanizations (e.g., Martin scrounges up "a dollar here, fifty cents there" for bus fare and shops at a CVS drugstore). Happily, these discrepancies don't dim the substantial pleasures of this satisfying and oddly buoyant story. Ages 10-up. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
"Martyn Pig is a character you will never forget." The Observer; "The most exciting debut by a UK author since Skellig by David Almond." Literary Review"
Gr 8 Up-Martyn Pig's mother left years ago; his father is an abusive alcoholic. Living in a dreary English seaside town, he thinks that things can't get any worse. But, in the week that readers spend with him, his life takes an even worse turn. He makes the mistake of yelling at his father; as the drunken man comes at his son with his fist raised, he stumbles, falls (with just the merest shove from Martyn), hits his head on the fireplace wall, and dies. Faced with the possibility of living with his dreadful aunt, and feeling no sense of having done anything really wrong, he decides not to notify the police. With the help of his friend Alex, he concocts a macabre, blackly humorous scene to fool Aunty Jean into thinking Dad is very ill in bed. He and Alex then sew him and some rocks into a sleeping bag and pitch him into a quarry. When Martyn stumbles across a letter informing his father of a substantial inheritance, he thinks he and Alex will be set for the future. Then blackmail and double-crossing enter the picture. She steals the money and disappears, but not before she does away with her boyfriend. In a brief epilogue, readers see Martyn in his aunt's house, in sunnier times. They will be fascinated with the gripping plot twists and turns, and fully engaged by Martyn's distinctive voice. While there are some heavy issues here, the characters are surprisingly likable, and the bleakness is tempered by some tongue-in-cheek and zany humor. Fresh and edgy, Martyn Pig will have tremendous teen appeal.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.