I’m delighted to be continuing my Orenda binge with the latest novel from the amazingly talented, Doug Johnstone, Breakers. A huge thanks to the author and Orenda Books for the ARC for review and to Anne over at RandomThingsTours for inviting me onto the blog tour.
Before I share my thoughts, here’s what the official blurb says:
A toxic family … a fight for survival…
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.
I never fail to be amazed at Doug Johnstone’s talent, every time I pick up one of his books I’m blown away but this time, Breakers not only blew me away, I think it actually might have broken me a little.
Tyler Wallace’s story is one of a young man caught up in a world ruled by poverty, abuse and addiction. At 17 years old he takes sole charge of his 7 year old sister, Bean, while his mum feeds her addiction and his half brother and sister, Barry and Kelly live in the flat across from them in their own fucked up world.
Coerced into joining Barry and Kelly to break into houses, Tyler’s life takes a turn for the worse, if you could imagine any worse, when one night they break into the house of the notorious Holt family. What happens next is an extraordinary and exceptional character driven story that will grab you by the throat and extract every emotion from you. It will make you look deep into the depths of your soul, it will make you question every assumption and stereotype you may hold about “kids like” Tyler and Bean.
Doug Johnstone paints a picture of poverty and neglect so stark that it feels like you have just walked onto the scene. But despite the poverty there is a richness about his characters, it is impossible to pick up a book by this author and not immediately feel yourself drawn into their lives, understanding the decisions they make even if they are breaking the law. Doug Johnstone knows that life is not black and white, he knows there are many shades of gray we all stumble through when it comes to making choices. He uses these “what if” scenarios to create a fictional, dark, psychological masterpiece.
It was hard not to warm to Tyler, completely dominated by his brother he feels like he has no choice but to help him and Kelly out on the break ins. He does it to protect and provide for his sister, Bean. There was some extremely poignant narrative, the Polaroid camera selfies, Snook the dog and her pups, all filling me with a real sense of despair but at the same time a hope for Tyler and Bean.
Doug Johnstone doesn’t just write a book, he paints a picture, he creates a world into which you step as soon as you open the pages; he creates characters so real you can see, hear and touch them, they become your family your neighbours. I found myself completely engrossed in the book, it was real to me. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried, the hopelessness that Tyler feels caught up in a life he doesn’t want to live, his brother a violent maniac, Kelly coked out her head and his mother an addict who has given up all pretence of caring. His relationship with his younger sister Bean is heartwarming, everything he does is for her.
Through his characters the reader learns that appearances can be deceiving. The depth of character is so strong that for me Doug Johnstone could write about anything and I’d be invested in the book. But he doesn’t just write about anything his plots are multilayered and topical, exploring family dynamics, social divisions and manages to address issues such as a lack of communication between statutory services, government cutbacks and the very real impact that these have on the lives of those who are already on the bottom rung of the social ladder. And he does all this without making the reader feel they are being lectured to.
Breakers is a book that might break you but it is a story that will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Outstanding!
Don’t forget to check out what the other bloggers have been saying:
Breakers is available for purchase from:
About the author:
|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, Mark Billingham 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.