Christopher Brookmyre – A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away

I started reading this the day before the London bombings earlier this month. The first few chapters cover the activities of a terrorist for hire, the the reaction of the police, who have learned that he is planning a job on British soil. The sudden eruption of terrorist violence in real life, mixed with Brookmyre’s acerbically humorous writing, made reading the book quite uncomfortable for a while: I felt guilty about laughing.

The story revolves around two characters, Simon Darcourt and Raymond Ash. They were students and flatmates together at one point, but they fell out catastrophically and have gone very separate ways: Darcourt is now an infamous contract terrorist, and Ash has taken a job as an teacher, and is being driven psychotic by his colicky infant son. Ash thought Darcourt had died in a plane crash several years ago, but when he sees him walking through an airport one day, their lives become entwined once more.

In the end, the book is more about how the history Ash and Darcourt shared, how they came to be the people they are, and how life rarely turns out the way you expected it, than it is about the terrorist plot and how it unravels. It’s tense, funny, and full of sympathetic insight into the mind of a new teacher and a sleep-deprived parent.