Saturday, 25 May 2019

Breakers by Doug Johnstone @doug_johnstone BLOG TOUR @OrendaBooks #Breakers

Seventeen-year-old Tyler lives in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas. Coerced into robbing rich people’s homes by his bullying older siblings, he’s also trying to care for his little sister and his drug-addict mum.

On a job, his brother Barry stabs a homeowner and leaves her for dead, but that’s just the beginning of their nightmare, because the woman is the wife of Edinburgh’s biggest crime lord, Deke Holt.

With the police and the Holts closing in, and his shattered family in devastating danger, Tyler meets posh girl Flick in another stranger’s house, and he thinks she may just be his salvation … unless he drags her down too.

A pulsatingly tense psychological thriller, Breakers is also a breathtakingly brutal, beautiful and deeply moving story of a good kid in the wrong family, from one of Scotland’s finest crime writers.

Breakers by Doug Johnstone was published in paperback by Orenda Books on 16 May 2019. I'm delighted to share my thoughts about the book today, as part of the Blog Tour.

Quite possibly one of the more difficult reviews I've ever written. It's generally pretty easy to write about crime fiction; with the good guys and the baddies and the heinous crime at the centre. All are different, but that's the basic premise.

Not with Breakers! Oh no, Doug Johnstone has to be different, and whilst this is quite firmly a novel about crime, it's also one of the most expressive and insightful stories about modern families that I've ever read. This author just gets better and better; his ability to draw the most magnificent characters is astounding. 

We often hear about 'nature v nuture' and how much of an influence our parents and siblings have on us. The author takes that theory and really shakes it up a bit; this is not a  cliche-ridden, generation after generation dysfunctional family story at all. 

Tyler is seventeen and lives in the rough area of Edinburgh, in one of two remaining tower blocks, surrounded by building sites that will provide the dream houses for the up and coming, and with a view that includes the city hospital. He lives with his heroin addicted mother and his little sister, known as Bean.
Next door, in a flat acquired by forcing out a Syrian family live Barry and Kelly; Tyler's two older half-siblings, and their vicious, constantly barking dogs; Ant and Dec.

The family business is burglary. Breaking and entering the homes of Edinburgh's wealthy; taking whatever they can carry; selling what they can; keeping what they need. It's just their way of life; as far as they are concerned, those rich people can afford it; they have insurance; some of them don't even bother with alarms.
That's what Tyler has been taught, but he knows that it is all wrong. He's not like Barry and Kelly, he hates what they do; he hates Barry who is a cruel and violent bully. However, he has to protect Bean and if he doesn't go on the jobs, then they'll try to force her through the small windows instead. 

One night everything goes wrong. In explosive, dramatic scenes, this author relates the reality of burglary and its impact. However, this is not just any house, the owner of this particular house is going to make life for the three young burglars very very difficult. 

Sometimes Tyler breaks into empty houses just for some peace and quiet. Not to steal or be destructive; just for a chance to breathe, and be himself, away from the chaos of his family and neighbourhood. It's during one of these escapades that he meets Flick; a girl from the good side of the tracks; but underneath she's not very different to him. They are both unhappy, they both feel unloved, they both want more. Doug Johnstone gently unfolds their friendship in the most glorious of ways, giving such genuine insight into how two young people who have been nurtured in the exact opposite ways can be almost identical in nature. 

Breakers is a triumph. It's an exploration of community, family and friendship. It is dark and it is violent and it is full of grit, yet it is also warm and funny and ultimately uplifting.
An engrossing, taut tale filled with the largest of characters; some are dreadfully evil, some are an utter delight, but all of them are crafted with the highest of precision; believable and incredibly real.

I have so much admiration for this brilliant author and cannot wait to see what he comes up with next.

Doug Johnstone is an author, journalist and musician based in Edinburgh. He’s had nine novels published, most recently Fault Lines. His previous novel, The Jump, was a finalist for the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. Several of his other novels have been award winners and bestsellers, and he’s had short stories published in numerous anthologies and literary magazines. His work has been praised by the likes of Ian Rankin, Val McDermid and Irvine Welsh. Several of his novels have been optioned
for film and television.
Doug is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow. He’s worked as an RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University, taught creative writing at Strathclyde University and William Purves Funeral Directors. He mentors and assesses manuscripts for The Literary Consultancy and regularly tutors at Moniack Mhor writing retreat. Doug has released seven albums in various bands, and is drummer, vocalist and occasional guitarist for the Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers, a band of crime writers. He also reviews books for The Big Issue magazine, is player-manager for Scotland Writers Football Club and has a PhD in nuclear physics.

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