Martyn Pig

Martyn Pig

by Kevin Brooks

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Meet Martyn Pig... a boy with a terrible name, trapped in a terrible life. His mother has left him. His father is a belligerent, abusive alcoholic. It seems like his life can't get any worse.

And then it does. Faced with the sudden, accidental death of his father, Martyn realizes that for the first time ever, he has a choice. He can tell the police what happened --

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Meet Martyn Pig... a boy with a terrible name, trapped in a terrible life. His mother has left him. His father is a belligerent, abusive alcoholic. It seems like his life can't get any worse.

And then it does. Faced with the sudden, accidental death of his father, Martyn realizes that for the first time ever, he has a choice. He can tell the police what happened -- and be suspected of murder -- or he can get rid of the body and go on with the rest of his life. Deciding on the latter, Martyn and his sharp-witted and undeniably pretty new neighbor come up with a seemingly foolproof plan. Then, just as Martyn begins to think his life is finally under control, a twisted turn of events leaves him stunned beyond belief. Kevin Brooks masterfully captures the humor and heart of this compelling character with his chilling, unforgettable story.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a starred review, PW called this novel about a boy who accidentally kills his slovenly and abusive alcoholic father (and decides not to call the authorities) "hard-boiled, wide eyed and laugh-aloud funny." Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Fifteen-year-old Martyn Pig, whose mother walked out long ago, lives with his abusive, alcoholic father. While trying to fend off some blows, Martyn pushes his father, who falls, hits his head, and dies. Martyn does not call the police because he is afraid that they will suspect him of murder, or at best, send him to live with his awful Aunty Jean. Instead, Martyn enlists the help of Alex, his pretty friend and neighbor, to help him get rid of the body. Complications ensue as Alex's low-life boyfriend tries to blackmail the two. Martyn gets away with the plan eventually but not without some shocks and twists along the way. This tale is suspenseful, but one really must suspend disbelief. Some events are implausible or too convenient. For example, when Aunty arives for a visit, Martyn props his father's dead and already fragrant body into bed, puts makeup on him so he will look sick, tape records Alex snoring, and tells Aunty Jean that dad is ill. It also will seem unlikely to readers that the police would not have done a better job figuring things out. The narrative is well written, and Martyn's inner turmoil comes across quite well. Unfortunately, this British novel has been Americanized—but not completely. Although Mum becomes Mom and pounds become dollars, sea does not become ocean, packet does not become pack or package, road does not become street, and Aunty does not become Aunt. This inconsistency detracts from the sense of place and atmosphere, resulting in an overall mixed bag of writing. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P M J (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2002, Chicken House/Scholastic,240p, Stern
Children's Literature
Martyn Pig doesn't have an easy life. First there's his odd name as he explains it "Martyn with a Y, Pig with an I and one G." Having a name made for teasing was just the beginning of his difficulties. His mother deserted the family when he was very young. He was left with his alcoholic father whose only redeeming quality seems to be that he manages to keep a roof over both of them. When his father dies suddenly while sitting in his chair, Martyn doesn't know what to do. He fears if he calls the police to report the death, he will be sent by some social service organization to live with his unpleasant Aunty Jean. Life with his father was difficult but with Aunty Jean, he was sure it would be unbearable. This failure sets him up for so many complications and twists in his life that the reader keeps wondering what more can possibly happen to him. The book, published originally in Britain, is the first by the author whose life has included jobs at a railroad station, a crematorium and the London Zoo. His literary heroes, Jack Kerouac, Raymond Chandler, Cormac McCarthy, and J. D. Salinger have left definite imprints on this original book. 2002, The Chicken House/Scholastic,
— Janet Crane Barley
Cursed with an unfortunate name and an alcoholic father, 14-year-old Martyn Pig lives unhappily in a rundown neighborhood. When his drunken father makes a threatening lunge at him one day, Martyn instinctively shoves him away, accidentally causing his father to hit his head fatally on the fireplace. Afraid of being sent to live with his Aunty Jean, "a terrible woman," Martyn decides to cover up the death instead. (Discovering that his father was about to come into a substantial inheritance doesn't hurt.) He enlists the help of Alex, an attractive older girl he has a crush on, to dump the body—but first he plants some of her nasty boyfriend's hairs under the fingernails of the corpse. The plot twists and turns unexpectedly, and the sharp (sometimes gruesome) details, ethical dilemmas, and flashes of humor here will keep YAs turning the pages. This is the first novel by a talented British author; his second, Lucas, is reviewed in the Hardcover Fiction section of this issue. An ALA Best Book for YAs. KLIATT Codes: JS*—Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2002, Scholastic, Push, 234p.,
— Paula Rohrlick
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Martyn Pig's mother left years ago; his father is an abusive alcoholic. Living in a dreary English seaside town, he thinks that things can't get any worse. But, in the week that readers spend with him, his life takes an even worse turn. He makes the mistake of yelling at his father; as the drunken man comes at his son with his fist raised, he stumbles, falls (with just the merest shove from Martyn), hits his head on the fireplace wall, and dies. Faced with the possibility of living with his dreadful aunt, and feeling no sense of having done anything really wrong, he decides not to notify the police. With the help of his friend Alex, he concocts a macabre, blackly humorous scene to fool Aunty Jean into thinking Dad is very ill in bed. He and Alex then sew him and some rocks into a sleeping bag and pitch him into a quarry. When Martyn stumbles across a letter informing his father of a substantial inheritance, he thinks he and Alex will be set for the future. Then blackmail and double-crossing enter the picture. She steals the money and disappears, but not before she does away with her boyfriend. In a brief epilogue, readers see Martyn in his aunt's house, in sunnier times. They will be fascinated with the gripping plot twists and turns, and fully engaged by Martyn's distinctive voice. While there are some heavy issues here, the characters are surprisingly likable, and the bleakness is tempered by some tongue-in-cheek and zany humor. Fresh and edgy, Martyn Pig will have tremendous teen appeal.-Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This sometimes grossly funny, always absorbing gut-wrenching thriller tells the slippery-slope story of how a few (granted large) ethical missteps can send a character sliding down a moral mineshaft. After a sharply etched set-up that neatly lays out the grim life of 15-year-old Martyn Pig, the novel explodes into noir when the protagonist, a passionate mystery buff, shoves his angry, alcoholic father, who is coming at him, "with his fist raised above his head and drunken madness burning in his eyes." Martyn's father, who is too intoxicated to maintain his footing, accidentally falls, fatally cracking his head in the process. When Martyn finds out that his now-dead father is due to come into a substantial inheritance, greed takes over, and soon Martyn is plotting with his slightly older neighbor and best friend, a pretty, talented aspiring actress named Alex. As the determined amateurs orchestrate the grizzly disposal of the increasingly ripe corpse, Brooks piles on obstacles followed by complications. Just when the suspense becomes close to unbearable, he unleashes a completely unsuspected yet perfectly credible plot twist that will make readers smack their heads in disbelief, wondering how they could have missed something so obvious. Brooks does a good job of making his protagonist sympathetic and understandable without being likable, though he spends a little too much time on his internal ramblings, which slows the action without significantly adding to the reader's insight. Still, a minor complaint in an otherwise provocative and engrossing debut. (Fiction. 11-15)

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Gardners Books
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