Travelling on the train to Glasgow, I dug around in my bag and found my copy of Douglas Lindsay’s The Legend of Barney Thomson. The cover brandishes the phrase “now a major motion picture”, so it must be a good read, right? A brand new book, I timidly opened the rigid cover, careful not to leave any creases and was met with the prologue.
“Breasts. The body of the young woman lay on the kitchen table.” Well. That’s a bit odd. I knew, upon reading the blurb that Lindsay’s novel is a black comedy where a barber turns into a murderer. Sweeney Todd, I thought; yet this was a comedy? I continued to read. “Perhaps it would be simpler to send off an ear or a hand. A bland statement of release to the dear departed’s family.” It’s just getting sadistic now, isn’t it? I am not the biggest fan of the crime genre, so this prologue really wasn’t enticing me into reading the novel. But I didn’t want to give up. I moved onto chapter one with the interesting title choice and determined to read more. Set in Glasgow, the narrative in the beginning follows Barney Thomson’s thoughts on the different cities around Scotland, and the awful weather we are all forced to endure. Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen – he names some of the cities that I pass on my train journey and how, “if it wasn’t raining then they wouldn’t look natural’. Looking out of the window on the train, all I see is fields and fields of dull green, with mist resting on top. “It was just Glasgow. In the sun it looked good, and in the rain it was terrible. An awful place to be.” I looked out the window again. It was raining. Barney’s dreary description and the dreary weather I myself was looking out at did not make me want to continue reading. I stored my book away and plugged in some earphones.
It wasn’t until a week later, that I decided to pick the novel up again. One of my friends had noticed the cover of my book, and exclaimed, “That movie was actually hilarious, it has such a good plot twist in it!” I had to know what she meant now. And I was not disappointed. The narrative again continued with its thoroughly depressed character, but a plot teeming with clever black humour. The more I read, the more I actually found myself rooting for Barney Thomson, thinking to myself that surely at some point his life was going to get better. He is your classic underdog — but with a murderous twist. You find yourself both engrossed in and grossed out by him.
So despite the book not being much to my taste initially, I can see its appeal to anybody who enjoys the crime genre, unique also due to its comedic twists. You should avoid just watching the movie. Reading the novel, being fully involved in the narrative of Barney Thomson and others around him, is what gives you the complete picture of the story. While I personally maintain that the novel is always better than the film adaptation, you will really want to read just to know the twist in plot. And trust me, you want to know this twist. So if you’re looking for a book that’s a little different, a little out of the ordinary, then The Legend of Barney Thomson is the next book you should read.