RogerBW's Blog

The Sacred Art of Stealing, Christopher Brookmyre 22 April 2017

2002 tartan noir. Angelique de Xavia, police detective burning out after the events of A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away, comes up against a gang of Situationist bank robbers.

There are certain mistakes that you know you just have to make, know you're going to make, no matter what conscience, logic or fear are telling you.

And this is a book about making those mistakes, and how it can turn out right after all. It's also a caper novel, with the requisite twists and moments of "a-ha, but you did not realise that…", and nasty gangsters, and the police knowing they're always one step behind (though actually it's two).

But it's also about Angelique de Xavia, a heroic policewoman but descending hard into post-traumatic stress, and Zal Innes, bank robber and performance artist, stuck in a set of impossible situations with contradictory demands; and that's before they realise that they're falling in love with each other.

Brookmyre's utter incompetence with writing about firearms continues to impress. The hand-held "machine guns" are back, but it gets worse:

A pump-action grenade launcher, such as a SPAS or a LAW, would be more normally employed in its principal fire mode, which was as a fully automatic shotgun. The pump was only required for projectiles that weren't gas-ejected. When it came to regular shells, those babies could take eleven in the breach and one in the pipe, and blast out all twelve in a matter of seconds.

Er, no. Just no. It's not worth correcting the errors in this paragraph. Just burn it down and start again.

There's also a Moral Crusader brought low (a bit of a stereotype actually, for all there's some attempt to humanise him, and this section descends more into farce than is really compatible with the rest of the story), extended commentary on the nature of art, and Celtic v Rangers as a metaphor for human society.

This is peak Brookmyre; for my money the elements mix together better here than in anything else he's written. Followed, loosely, by A Snowball in Hell.

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