I saw Doug talk about this book earlier in the year at the Orenda Roadshow so I was excited to get to finally get my hands on it.
Seventeen-year-old Tyler lives in one of Edinburgh’s most deprived areas. Whilst trying to care for his little sister and his drug-addicted mother, he’s also coerced into robbing rich people’s homes by his bullying older siblings.
One night whilst on a job, his brother Barry stabs a homeowner and leaves her for dead. And that’s just the beginning of their nightmare, because they soon discover 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 terrible danger, Tyler is running out of options, until he meets posh girl Flick in another stranger’s house. Could she be his salvation? Or will he end up dragging her down with him?
Breakers is a lot darker and grittier than I was expecting but still has that absorbing quality that I experienced with the author’s previous book Fault Lines, where the pages drag you into the action and don’t want to let you go.
It is easy to empathise with Tyler, even though what he is doing isn’t right when I realised his motivations, the need to provide for his family, and that for him it isn’t out of malice it’s just to survive, I felt I could connect with him a lot better. He is a character that had such a massive emotional impact for me because of the contrast between his character and his surroundings. Tyler is from a really deprived area and could easily be as hardened and violent as his brother Barry but instead, he is trying his best to raise his sister Bean and shield her as much as he can from a grim reality.
It’s hard to explain properly because I don’t want to give away any parts of the book but my heart did break a little for him at the end because of the decisions that he had to make. It’s just thinking about the impact that they would have on him gives me chills, it is definitely a sign of some great writing though that it has been playing on my mind well after reading.
I also liked the contrast between Tyler and Flick and I don’t exactly mean the differences in their background but that whilst Tyler isn’t an open book you can take him as you see him but Flick doesn’t seem as sure of who she is or who she wants to be. I quite liked her unpredictability and that she pushes Tyler out of his comfort zone at times, they almost balance each other out which is what pulls them together. Although the relationship that really shines in this book is, of course, between Tyler and Bean, you can’t help but love Bean, she is such an endearing character and she brings out the best in Tyler as well.
I feel like special mention should be made to the fact that the author has a wonderful way of making a city come to life, I felt the same about Fault Lines, I know a little of Edinburgh but even if I didn’t it wouldn’t be hard to conjure up from what has been put into the pages. It is a very engaging and concise style that really does pack a punch and easily creates the right atmosphere in every scene.
This is a great book with stellar writing however there was an element of predictability to it which I only mention because it has been billed as a thriller and it just didn’t hit that mark for me. For a fair majority of the story I knew the way it was going to play out, I will concede that I didn’t know how the very end was going to unfold but what came before followed a fairly obvious path. This didn’t bother me at all because Breakers, in my opinion, is more of a character driven story and I was more interested in their growth and how they handled the situations they were facing rather than being all consumed by what was going to happen next.
What I like about Doug Johnstone’s books is that I never quite know what to expect but I’m always pleasantly surprised and looking forward to the next one.
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.
Reviews of other Doug Johnstone books