ORDINARY THUNDERSTORMS by William Boyd

Book Quote:

“Clouds were his business – he was a cloud-man who made clouds in his giant laboratory and stimulated them to deliver their moisture in the form of raindrops or hailstones…So what was he doing lying, filthy and alone, in this small triangle of ground on the banks of the Thames? Not for the first time the life that he had once so recently led seemed some kind of taunting chimera – the contrasts between his two existences, before and after, appeared too acute to seem real – as if the Adam Kindred he had been was a fantasy figure, a vagrant’s dream, the fond imaginings of a desperate down-and-out.”

Book Review:

Review by Lynn Harnett (MAR 21, 2010)

In British author Boyd’s capable hands it’s actually believable that a slightly depressed, mild-mannered climatologist chooses to go underground in a strange city rather than report a murder.

Born in Britain, Adam Kindred has lived in America most of his life. Now, newly, devastatingly divorced, he’s left his U.S. university job and hopes for a new start with a fellowship in London. Fresh from the job interview, he treats himself to a meal, exchanges pleasantries with another solitary diner and afterwards discovers that the man – a research doctor – has left a file behind.

Good naturedly, Adam arranges to return it and goes to the man’s flat where he finds him fatally stabbed. “Philip Wang lay on top of his bed in a widening pool of blood. He was alive, very conscious, and a hand, flipper like, gestured Adam towards him.” His last words concern the file. “ ‘Whatever you do, don’t – ‘ Wang died then, with a short gasp of what seemed like exasperation.”

Going for the phone, Adam hears someone enter, and flees without calling the police, taking the murdered man’s file with him. Reaching for his cell he discovers blood on his hand, washes it in a fountain, then feels the need of a drink. “…he needed to calm down, give his thoughts some order…”

Incrementally time passes until it’s too late. The police naturally assume Adam is guilty, and the real murderer knows who he is. A vagrant on the banks of the Thames, he passes his first days assuming the situation will right itself, he will be cleared and the real murderer caught.

But things don’t work out that way.

Staying primarily with Adam, Boyd shares point of view among several characters: the mercenary who killed Wang and now has a contract on Adam; the hapless CEO of the pharmaceutical firm Wang worked for, whose new riches come at a hidden price; the CEO’s dissipated, aristocrat brother-in-law; and Rita Nashe, the cop who discovered Wang’s body.

The tension builds as Adam loses the trappings of normal life to blundering naivety, until he hits rock bottom and, starving, begins to exert himself. He has entered a world of muggers, prostitutes, hard-luck cases, and other opportunists, and the way back – if there is one – requires an education in street smarts.

It also requires detective work. The police are satisfied with him as their suspect and Wang’s file is his only hope. The file data mean nothing to him, but Adam begins to dig into the man’s work with pediatric asthma patients, determined to uncover the secret that killed him.

Winner of numerous awards, including the Whitbread, Boyd explores identity and the influence of social forces in this character-driven thriller. What happens when a man becomes unmoored from society? What will he do to preserve his life, his freedom, his dignity? What will he not do?

The prose is muscular and straightforward; the plot is compelling and tense, the secondary characters are well-fleshed. Boyd engages the reader in his quest and while not everyone will agree with his conclusions, fans of literary thrillers should enjoy the ride.

AMAZON READER RATING: from 78 readers
PUBLISHER: Harper; 1 edition (January 26, 2010)
REVIEWER: Lynn Harnett
AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK? YES! Start Reading Now!
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Wikipedia on William Boyd
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March 21, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Character Driven, Literary, Thriller/Spy/Caper, United Kingdom, y Award Winning Author

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