The Sacred Art Of Stealing by Christopher Brookmyre

Little, Brown, 2002, 419p

This is another novel featuring Detective Inspector Angelique De Xavia, who appeared in A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away (see my review here.)

Its prologue was faintly annoying as Brookmyre seemed to be indulging in explicitness merely for the sake of it. Moreover, when the book proper unfolds it is apparent that its chronology and the bulk of the narrative don’t quite fit. However, the main story as it progresses is engaging and the complex plot is revealed at just the right pace.

Brookmyre’s signature blending of humour with crime is again a key component. The set up, here, involves a bank robbery carried out by a gang dressed as clowns, or rather as one member of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. The robbers are at pains to make sure the hostages they have taken (which include De Xavia after she infiltrates the building and is captured) are put at ease; their leader insisting they are not the bad guys.

The character of DI De Xavia does not convince as it did in A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away as, here, she enters into a, quite frankly, unbelievable relationship. But, for plot purposes, she must. Brookmyre’s touch lets him down with this but the book is never less than readable; at times laugh, or at least chuckle, out loud funny and the plot is well worked out.

It was also refreshing to read a depiction of members of the criminal fraternity who were not unremittingly ill intentioned – though, of course the real baddies in the book are.

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