Agony Column Home
Agony Column Review Archive

A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away

Christopher Brookmyre


UK Trade Paperback First

ISBN 0-349-11467-6

502 Pages; Price £9.99 ($18.95)

Date Reviewed:02-09-2002

Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel




02-11-02, 03-07-02, 03-25-02, 03-28-02, 12-06-02, 01-07-03, 04-30-03

With the stateside publication of his first novel 'Quite Ugly One Morning', it looks like Scottish writer Christopher Brookmyre is finally going to begin getting the attention he deserves in the US. You can be thankful that you can find his books with the thrillers and mysteries, because there's not currently a section devoted to liberal rants. What Dennis Miller does so well on his cable TV show, Brookmyre does in the midst of page turning thrillers. If his plots are a bit on the 'over-the-top' side, it's barely detectable, because his side-splitting monologues are out of the ballpark. In his previous novels, he's given 'Die Hard' the 'Scream' treatment ('One fine day in the middle of the night') , created the memorably pugnacious reporter Jack Parlablane('Quite Ugly One Morning', 'Country of the Blind' and 'Boiling a Frog') and even taken on religious terrorists plotting to bomb LA ('Not the End of the World'). In 'A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away' he's absolutely eerily on-target as he skewers married life, amateur rock and roll, on-line gaming and international terrorism. Be forewarned that this novel is every bit as relevantly terrifying as it is hilarious. While you're wiping the tears from your eyes, you'll be hoping that the book does not fall into the wrong hands.

As the novel begins, English teacher Raymond Ash is wondering whether or not he's got all wrong. He's not ready for the responsibility of parenthood, and his small child is depriving himself and his wife of enough sleep so that they both feel they might be going mad. The classes of thugs he finds himself facing in his new job seem more than ready to take him and the entire staff on, and many better armed than the teachers, He takes refuge in on line gaming, since he's not doing so well in his Real Life TM role. Thus, when he sees his old school friend Simon, with whom he was in a band in college, he thinks he must be hallucinating, because he knows that Simon died in a plane crash a few years ago. In point of fact, the plane was brought down by a terrorist bomb, the one that Simon planted in order to erase his identity and start life anew as "the Black Spirit", the world's most feared terrorist for hire.

Raymond's life rapidly gets worse than he could possibly imagine as it once again intersects with Simon's. In the telling, we get a boatload of prime Brookmyre rants, starting off with this gem about road rage:

"Risking his life in an attempt to overtake before the crawler lane ends, so that he'll be one car -- one car -- up the queue when he reaches the traffic lights. And what does that tell you about the life he was risking?


Sad Suburban Cunts. This was the real reason for road rage. It wasn't a symptom of growing traffic congestion (though it shared the single car-usage factor), it was that this was the closest they got to defiance, the last ghostly remnant of the will to assert some identity. It was the only time they got to express any sense of self: when they were behind that wheel, on their own, jostling for position with the rest of the faceless. Overtake the guy in the bigger, newer, shinier car and it made you forget all the other ways in which he was leaving you behind to eat his dust."

And that gets you to page two. Between that rant and the end of the novel, you'll meet the best obnoxious school kid you'll ever encounter and find an absolutely foolproof method of getting a bomb on a plane. No dog, no machine can stop it. As Raymond and a motivated black woman member of Britain's anti-terrorist force close in on Simon, you won't be able to stop laughing or stop page-turning. And when you're done, you'll go back to relive and re-read your favorite rants. Brookmyre's 'A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away' may be his breakout book, but be careful when you order it. The chances are, you'll have to sign to accept delivery of the package, which will fortunately be easier before reading the book than afterwards.