A robbery in Scotland might not seem like an unusual background for a crime novel-until it’s put into the hands of one of the U.K.’s leading satirists, Christopher Brookmyre. Now available for the first time in the U.S., The Sacred Art of Stealing is narrative catnip for fans of crime fiction laced with dark humour.
This is how the story goes: Their eyes met across a crowded room. She was just a poor servant girl and he was the son of a rich industrialist … Well, the eyes meeting across a crowded room part is true. Where it differs from the fairy tales is that the room in question was crowded with hostages and armed bank-robbers, and Zal Innez’s eyes were the only part of him that Angelique de Xavia could see behind his mask. Angelique had enough to be fed up about before the embarrassment of being a cop taken hostage by the most bizarrely unorthodox crooks ever to set foot in Glasgow. Disillusioned, disaffected and chronically single, she’s starting to take stock of the sacrifices she’s made for a job that’s given her back nothing but grief. So when her erstwhile captor has the chutzpah to phone her at work and ask her out on a date, Angelique finds herself in no great hurry to turn him in. She knows now that the cops will never love her back, but maybe one of the robbers will.
The above is the current blurb from Amazon. However, here’s the blurb from the back of the book from my shelves, the blurb that had me buying the book.
Let us prey…
The press tend to talk about back robberies as being daring, ingenious and audacious. They don’t describe many as Dadaist, even the ones who know what ‘Dadaist’ means. But how else does one explain choreographed dancing gunmen in Buchanan Street, or the surreal methods they use to stay one step ahead of the cops?
Angelique de Xavia is no art critic, but she is a connoisseur of crooks, and she’s sure that the heist she got caught up in wasn’t the work of the usual awn-off-and-black-tights practitioners. She knows she’s dealing with a unique species of thief, and it’s her job to hunt him to extinction – though the fact that is not just his MO that’s cute might prove a distraction.
This was the first Christopher Brookmyre I ever read, and I loved it!
The robbery is daring, ingenious and audacious. I might even agree it was Dadaist if I understood what Dadaist was. What I do know is that it’s very funny, incredibly well written and not at all what I was expecting.
That robbery is the book’s inciting incident and from there it honestly just gets better. It definitely goes places that as a reader I started wondering ‘how on earth is all this going to tie together?’ But it does. And quite beautifully too.
This was one of the first crime novels I ever read that actually made me laugh for all the right reasons – I’d laughed at a few because they were that bad, but this book is meant to be mirthful and it is.
I highly recommend this book and many of his others. After this instalment, I went back and read Brookmyre’s earlier work, and became quite a devotee, turning to buying the hardbacks because I couldn’t wait for the books to come out, I read it all. Right up to Pandeamonium. Which I hated. I couldn’t even finish it, and I haven’t read anything he’s written since. If you like Pandeamonium and beyond, then fair enough, but I’ve not been able to get back into his work since.
However, I really would highly recommend The Sacred Art of Stealing and indeed all Brookmyre’s earlier works.