Martyn Pig’s not worried about his name anymore, but he kind of understands that readers might be:
“Yeah, I know. Don’t worry about it. It doesn’t bother me anymore. I’m used to it. Mind you, there was a time when nothing else seemed to matter. My name made my life unbearable. Martyn Pig. Why? Why did I have to put up with it? The startled looks, the sneers and sniggers, the snorts, the never-ending pig jokes, day in, day out, over and over again.”
But Martyn explains that people can get used to anything, and in his case, he ends up having a whole lot more to worry about than “the constant dread of having to announce [himself].”
Martyn’s biggest problem is his dad. He’s abusive, but Martyn has learned to lie about what life is really like at home – when he goes to the hospital with a broken wrist he tells the doctor that he fell off his bike. He knows what happens if a social worker comes by the house, if his dad loses the benefit checks that he receives to take care of his son. Martyn takes care of the tenuous situation at home carefully, including taking a first aid course that helps him determine whether or not his dad is “dead or just dead drunk” most nights.
That all changes one night, when in a roundabout way, Martyn explains how his love of Sherlock Holmes kills his dad. He says,
“Do you see what I mean now, about The Complete Illustrated Sherlock Holmes? If I’d never been given it for my birthday, if I’d never read it, then I’d never have fallen in love with murder mysteries. And if I’d never fallen in love with murder mysteries then I wouldn’t have been watching Inspector Morse on the television. And if I hadn’t been watching Inspector Morse on the television, Dad wouldn’t have been sitting there shouting “Lewis! Lew-is! Lew-is!” like a madman and I wouldn’t have got annoyed and I wouldn’t have told him to shut up and he wouldn’t have tried to bash my head in and I wouldn’t have shoved him in the back and he wouldn’t have hit his head against the fireplace and died.”
Martyn immediately begins worrying about what is going to happen now that he’s underage and without a parent or guardian. And, afraid that he’ll be sent with a relative that he doesn’t even know, he decides to hold off on calling the police. And then he finds his dad’s PIN number and bankcard along with a letter that states £30,000 pounds has just been deposited into the account. After a few days, he realizes that nothing has really changed, except for the fact that he his dad’s body is still in the house. Martyn decides to proceed as normal, and cover up the fact that his dad is dead.
It’s a plan that is quickly complicated and changed, and Martyn stops being the only person aware of his dad’s death. Voluntarily, he brings Alex into the fold, a teenage girl that he’s just met, and involuntarily, a teenage boy named Dean. Martyn tries to cover up the mystery he has created using the skills that he’s learned from the detective books that he reads. But unlike those books, he’s still right in the middle of the mystery, trying to cover up his tracks and deal with the “witnesses” who are now part of his life. It’s a different mystery story – the reader knows what happened, a witness to Martyn’s altercation with his dad – but it’s how Martyn covers his tracks that creates the “what next? what next?” of the mystery genre. The book is told in first person, and it makes for such an immediate read. Kevin Brooks writes an excellent YA mystery, just from the point of view of the person on the opposite side of a crime.