by Kevin Brooks is a thriller published in 2002. The book takes place in England, where the author is from. At the age of fourteen, Martyn’s father accidentally dies. His father was oppressive, so on one hand, Martyn is relieved to be free from such an environment. On the other hand, Martyn faces a slew of other emotions that threaten to overwhelm him. For example, his next-door neighbor is both mysterious and flirtatious, and Martyn is conflicted. He also feels a degree of guilt for focusing on those emotions immediately after his father’s death. Added to that are difficulties with the girl’s boyfriend—a blackmailer, and a windfall. Martyn is faced with balancing his freedom and responsibility—doing what’s right in a number of situations. Martyn Pig
is a bildungsroman, or a coming-of-age novel.
Because Brooks writes Martyn’s story in first-person point of view, the reader is immediately thrust into Martyn’s experience. Martyn’s life has not been easy. His father drinks and is often violent, and his mother ran away because of Martyn’s father. Not only does he feel abandoned and abused by his parents, but they gave him a name that has left him vulnerable to unending bullying from his peers. The story begins right before Christmas, with Alex—the girl next door. Alex presents emotional difficulties for Martyn not only because of how she behaves toward him but also because he has a crush on her.
A week before Christmas, Martyn’s father dies. His death occurs during a violent fight with Martyn, when he’s drunk. He falls, hits his head, and dies from that. But Martyn doesn’t call the cops because in the heat of the moment, he’s afraid they’ll blame him for his father’s accident. He imagines being imprisoned, and so he just leaves his father where he died. Alex, who visits each night, comes over and Martyn confides in her about his father. Despite Alex’s attempts to persuade
Martyn that he needs to call the cops, he still won’t, afraid that he’ll be suspected of murder. The very next day, Martyn learns that his father has just inherited a lump sum of money to the tune of sixty thousand dollars. Martyn talks with Alex again, and tells her that if he goes to the police now, he won’t be able to collect that money. He also says that like him, she’s guilty now.
The next day, Alex returns with Dean, her boyfriend. Dean tells Martyn that he knows all about the death of his father, and he’ll only stay silent about it if Martyn gives him the sixty thousand dollars. Although Martyn agrees to adhere to Dean’s request, he secretly plots to prevent Dean getting his hands on the money. Martyn also has a prying aunt—Aunty Jean—who inquires after his father. He manages to get her to believe that his dad is alive. Then, Martyn and Alex determine that they have to dispose of the body. They wrap him up using a sleeping bag, and include Dean’s hair and cigarette butts, and then dump Martyn’s father’s body in a nearby but abandoned quarry. Dean returns to demand the money from Martyn, but Martyn tells him that if he comes around again, or goes to the police, then Martyn will tell the cops where to find his dad’s body, with evidence linking him to Dean. Outsmarted, Dean leaves without any money.
By Christmas Eve, Alex has disappeared. The police come to find Martyn and inform him that Dean is dead—he perished in a motorcycle collision. They’re telling him because evidence points to Martyn’s involvement in Dean’s death. They question him at the police station, but that night, Martyn determines that Alex deceived him. Not only did she make it look like he caused Dean’s death, but she’s made off with the money. Martyn is able to get the police to believe in his innocence, all save the chief detective who is certain that Martyn killed Dean and got away with it. But as he’s unable to prove Martyn’s guilt, Martyn is free to go. As a minor, he can’t live on his own and so he’s sent to live with his aunt. A year passes, and Martyn gets a letter from Alex. She’s moved to America and working as an actress. Martyn accepts what’s happened over the last year at the end of the novel.
In addition to Martyn Pig
, Brooks’ other notable work is The Bunker Diary
. In 2013, Brooks won the Carnegie Medal for The Bunker Diary
. Shortly after publication, Martyn Pig
won the Branford Boase Award for authors and their editors. The award is typically focused on debut young adult novels. Since Martyn Pig
, Brooks has written over a dozen standalone novels, as well as three book series.