"You ken that bloke over by yon hen?"
"Wa? Yin? Thon wee yin, that's im? Shite yin don't keek like much.
"Oh ay but tis im aw'right.
"Yin's ta wan thon write yon books?
"Oh ay. Keek yin stauning there as if shite never came out his erse"
"Ya reckon you'll buy yin?"
"Wot, yon hen?"
"Eejit, yon book, yon book"
"Ay I ken thon, just pulling yer leg"
Welcome to Christopher Brookmyre land, where every other word of dialogue is either in some foreign dialect from the quaint city by the North Sea, Glasgow, or what's affectionately known as profanity. My attempt to recreate the sound of working-class urban Scotland would have me lathered after two seconds in the playgrounds of the primary students who people the pages of A Tale Etched In Blood And Hard Black Pencil.
Nearly 20 years after the students, who attended St. Elizabeth's primary school and St. Grace's upper level, have moved on to other things, one of their numbers is dead with a bullet in his skull and found next to the corpse of another classmate's father. Two other classmates, one the son of elder corpse and perpetual petty crooks and losers both, have been taken into custody on suspicion of murder and/or conspiracy to obstruct justice.
That one of them lies close to death in a hospital bed from multiple stab wounds either deepens the mystery or cements their guilt, according to Detective Inspector Karen Gillespie as she starts putting the pieces together that brought three of her former classmates to this end. Judging by their past records, neither of her accused have the form (police record) for this type of thing, having been in and out of trouble for a series of petty crimes since the days they were all wee lads and lassies together in primary school.
When the conscious one of the pair stretches his hand out to the past to request help from Martin Jackson, another old schoolmate, the past and present end up on a collision course as the murder case weaves a trail that leads back to their days in primary school together. What secrets were hidden under the surface in those days that made any of them who and what they are today? Had they always been capable of murder or were they innocent, as they both claimed?