Breakers by Doug Johnstone Orenda Books May 16th 2019
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 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
Its not often that an author can create a character that from the very first page would find a permanent place in your heart, Tyler Wallace was one such character. He got under my skin, and as a mother all I wanted to do was take him away from the life he led, and wrap him up in a wall of love, comfort and security. Sounds soppy, I know but you will know exactly what I mean when you read Doug Johnstone’s Breakers.
Breakers was by no means soppy and sentimental it was dark and although I don’t like to use the word incredibly gritty. Johnstone didn’t sugar coat his narrative and gave a stark, vivid picture of the reality of Tyler’s life. The care he showed for his younger sister Bean, his need to protect her from their older siblings, their mothers drug taking and the general minutiae of life in the most deprived area of Edinburgh was heart breaking, sincere and a shining light in the badness that surrounded them.
He was a young lad with an intelligence, a maturity beyond his years who in other circumstances would have had a glittering future ahead of him. He did what no teenager should have to do for his mother and the responsibility he showed toward his sister Bean was at the heart of all his actions. They were actions that put his own life in danger his courage, bravery and foolhardiness emanated from almost every page.
I loved Johnstone’s character Flick, the girl from wealth and privilege, who somehow looked past the grime and the poverty, who saw Tyler for who he was, for him as an individual with his own feelings and needs. It balanced out the grim darkness, gave you hope that there was someone routing for him, willing to help.
As for Tyler’s elder siblings Barry and Kelly I felt no love, only a distinct dislike but also an awareness that they were a product of their surroundings, their upbringing. What hope did they have with no parental guidance, no role model, and that is what Johnstone brilliantly highlighted. Indeed this seemed to be the premise of the whole novel of a family trapped, crime a way to feed habits, to pay for everyday necessities and in some respects a need to survive.
If Breakers was a novel with a social conscience it was also a top notch and absolutely brilliant crime novel. The narrative was superb, the vivid descriptions, at times, more than you could bear. Some scenes will live long in my memory and I doubt that there is another author out there who could match Johnstone for his stark, brutal descriptive narrative.
If that all sounds too dark, please please don’t be put off because there are glimmers of light and hope and I would hate for anyone to miss out on reading this superb novel.
I would like to thank Orenda Books for a copy of Breakers to read and review and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
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 and Irvine Welsh. Several of his novels have been optioned
for film and television. Doug is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow.
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.