character - martyn pig
The protagonist & narrator is Martyn Pig, a fifteen-year-old boy who is living with his father because his mother left years ago. He has to do all the domestic work, because his father is an alcoholic. Martyn reads thrillers, murder mysteries and especially the comics of Sherlock Holmes. He watches his favourite series Inspector Morse, Columbo and Law and Order on the TV. His best friend, Alex, often comes over to spend time with him. He is a naive and thoughtful teenager who is in love with Alex, although he knows that he doesn’t have any chance because of her boyfriend. He ends up accidentally killing his father William Pig.
character - alex
Alex, a 17 year-old girl and Martyn’s best friend, is considered attractive, has long black hair and lives with her mother. They moved into Martyn’s neighborhood two years ago. Alex’s mother is an actress and as soon as Alex finishes school, she wants to use her inherited talent and become an actress in her mother’s footsteps. Alex is self-confident, adept at mimicking voices and is an opportunist. She admits to there being a negative side to the relationship between her and her boyfriend, Dean. At the end of the story Alex murders Dean by cutting the brakes on his bike and frames Martyn for it, she also betrays Martyn and at the end she sends him a letter explaining why. She’s very bold.
character - billy pig
William Pig is Martyn’s alcoholic father (also known as Billy Pig in the book). He is described as being a large and unpleasant fellow with oily black hair, ruddy complexion and bloodshot eyes. He has abused Martyn both physically and verbally, and gets his son to clean up all of his messes. At one point in Martyn’s life, William was accused by his sister (Martyn’s Aunty Jean) of being an unfit parent and, to keep custody of the boy, quit drinking for a short period of time, but he soon went back to his old ways. Martyn accidentally kills William.
character - dean
Dean is Alex’s boyfriend. He is described as having a lank dark coloured ponytail, pasty skin and washy eyes. He has a very negative personality, rides his motorcycle frequently and wears black leather. He becomes jealous of Martyn and Alex’s relationship and tries to blackmail them into giving him money. Near the end of the story, Alex cuts Deans brake line on his motorcycle and Dean ends up dead.
chapter - 1, wednesday
Martyn introduces himself and the story he is about to tell, which he says happened ‘over a year ago’. He explains that his mum has left and that he lives with his dad, William Pig, who is an alcoholic. His dad’s sister, Aunty Jean, occasionally visits and Martyn explains how much he dislikes her, and how, after his parents divorced, his father won custody of him over Aunty Jean. Martyn’s dad gives him some money to ‘get some stuff for Exmas’ and Martyn goes into town. On his way back, he meets his friend and neighbour, Alex. Martyn explains to the reader that although he is attracted to Alex, he feels inferior to her due to their difference in age (he is 13, she is 15). He remembers how Alex and her mother, an actress, had moved to a neighbouring house two years ago and that they had been friends ever since. Martyn explains that Alex has a boyfriend, Dean, whom he dislikes.
chapter - 1, wednesday, part 2
On page 24 Martyn reveals that he killed his father ‘but I never meant to kill him.’ He then explains the events leading up to the death – his love of detective fiction and his father’s interruptions while he tried to watch Inspector Morse. He explains that his dad had been taunting him during the programme, and when he told his dad to ‘shut up’, his dad had made to hit him. Martyn pushed his dad back. His dad stumbled back, fell against the fireplace, hit his head and died.
Martyn, believing he would be the main suspect if he called the police, takes no action apart from confiding in Alex. She attempts to persuade him to call the police. But Martyn refuses, fearing he would be either sent to prison or to live with the dreaded Aunty Jean.
chapter - 2, thursday
After a sleep filled with nightmares, Martyn wakes to find a letter addressed to his father containing a cheque for £30,000, which had been left to his father in a will by a long-lost relative. Martyn shares the news with Alex. They discuss the money, and Martyn’s fears of Aunty Jean’s impending visit. Alex goes to meet Dean. Later, Martyn is visited by Alex and Dean, who attempts to blackmail Martyn with a taped conversation made on a recorder hidden in the unknowing Alex’s bag. After they leave, Martyn collects a cigarette end left by Dean and a few strands of his hair.
chapter - 3, friday
To prepare for Aunty Jean’s visit, Martyn and Alex move Martyn’s dad’s body up to his bedroom and they set about making the room look like a sickroom. Alex hides while Aunty Jean visits. Aunty Jean is slightly suspicious but leaves, finally convinced that her brother was simply asleep, ill. Alex leaves and Martyn daydreams of starting a new life with her and the £30,000.
chapter - 4, saturday
The next day Alex phones and tells Martyn that she has to go shopping with her mum. Martyn decides to spend the day at the beach – at this time of year it would be deserted. He takes the bus there. At first, Martyn enjoys the walk – then it starts to snow. Martyn’s thoughts race into free association. He sits on the beach and imagines being taken over by the cold and dying. He sees Alex in a white dress gliding towards him but this image then resolves into Martyn’s dad ‘like a ghoulish scarecrow, deathly pale and drunk.’
Martyn comes back to full consciousness and decides to get away from the beach before he freezes to death. He runs through the snow and travels home, making tea and having a bath. Alex arrives with surgical masks and they set about dressing his Dad’s body using rubber gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints. They put the body into a sleeping bag, take it downstairs and load it in the van.
They drive the van in the dark, looking for a disused gravel pit that they remember being nearby. They find the gravel pit, which is filled with water. They put rocks in the sleeping bag in order to weigh it down and stop it floating, and push it into the water. Alex drives Martyn home. On the journey, Martyn considers the morality of his actions, claiming that he had not done anything wrong – he had not hurt anyone.
chapter - 5, sunday
Martyn wakes up and listens to Desert Island Discs on the radio. He considers what he would take to a desert island, and decides in the end there is nothing. He wanders around the house enjoying the quietness but seeing a kind of horror in the furniture he associates with his father. Martyn spends all day hoping to see Alex but she does not visit.
chapter - 6, monday
Martyn, making breakfast, remembers a bird he shot dead when he was younger. He reflects that ‘It left me cold. Ashamed. Scared. Dirty and bad.’ But also, ‘A sense of power, maybe. Control. Strength.’ Alex visits and encourages Martyn to hide the signs of forging the cheque. She offers to take the cash card and put it back in the bureau and tells Martyn that she has flushed away the practice signatures. Alex leaves and Martyn waits for Dean to arrive. He enjoys tidying the house and cleaning away the mess his dad always left.
Dean arrives and Martyn is calm and casual in his manner. He refuses to give Dean the money and, when Dean threatens to pass the incriminating taped conversation between Martyn and Alex to the police, he retaliates by telling Dean he has placed strands of his hair and cigarette ash in the sleeping bag containing his dad’s body. Dean recognises that Martyn now has control. Martyn tells Dean that Alex has collected any spare tapes from Dean’s flat. Dean leaves on his motorbike and Martyn ponders the peculiarity of how the noise from the motorbike seems to suddenly disappear.
Alex returns with the tapes and tells Martyn ‘I don’t think we’ll see Dean again.’ They play Scrabble and Martyn suggests to Alex that now they can do whatever they like. Alex remains evasive. When she leaves that night, Martyn says, ‘That was the last time I ever saw her.
chapter - 7, tuesday
The next day, Martyn begins to worry that Alex has not visited. He goes to Alex’s front door and sees the van gone and an empty house. He wanders around his dad’s bedroom starting to piece together evidence. He realises that Alex has taken one of his dad’s jackets and cheque-book and cashcard. He understands that Alex ‘took the cheque-book, the cash card, dad’s identification, and the letters. She also took the jacket. And probably some other clothes, too. The shirt, pair of trousers, maybe a coat. Stuffed the morning that damn great bag of hers and just walked out. Why? Think about it… Her mum. Of course! Her mum.’ Alex has stolen these things so that her mum can dress up as Martyn’s dad and withdraw the money from the cash machine. Martyn is plunged into confusion and doubt.
The police visit, asking for William Pig. They want to come in to talk with Martyn, who tells them that his dad went out on Saturday and has not come back. They also ask him about Dean, and Martyn tells them that he has not seen Dean for several months.
chapter - 7, tuesday, part 2
One of the police officers shows a letter saying that a cheque of £30,000 was paid into William Pig’s bank account. He also shows a sheet of paper with the practiced forged signatures of Martyn’s dad, saying they were found at Dean’s flat and that Dean had been killed in a road accident the previous day.
The police officer says that Dean’s motorbike’s break lines failed and that they had been ‘Possibly severed. Intentionally.’ Martyn realises that Alex had probably cut the brake cables on Dean’s motorbike, thus causing him to be killed. The police officers take Martyn away to the police station. Martyn ponders the full implications of Alex’s actions.
chapter - 8, christmas day
Martyn is told that the police have found his father’s body and he pretends surprise and grief. Martyn is interviewed by the police and sticks to his story that he had last seen his father on Saturday: that he had been ill when his Aunty Jean had visited and then gone out the next day and didn’t come back.
In order to protect himself, Martyn makes up a story about Dean. He says that, at a Christmas dance, he had spoken to a girl without knowing she was Dean’s girlfriend. Dean had then arrived and threatened him. Martyn gives a description of the girl which is entirely different to Alex. Martyn then says that Dean had visited his house last week with one of his biker friends and threatened him again. He says that Dean had ransacked the house, searching through his dad’s room, and had taken away the letters about his dad’s money and the will. Martyn is released.
Martyn explains that he has been living at his Aunty Jean’s for almost a year, and that it’s not as bad as he thought it would be. The truth about his father has never come out and no one has been arrested. Martyn says that he thinks the police suspect him for the murder of Dean, but that they can’t prove anything.
Martyn says that he received a letter yesterday from Alex. In the letter, she apologises if Martyn got into trouble, saying she tried to ‘leave things pointing in the right direction.’ She says she is living in the USA and that she’s got her first role as an actress in an advert. She finishes the letter on a breezy tone. Martyn puts down the letter and looks out of the window. ‘It was starting to snow.