Thursday, March 4, 2010

Review: Ordinary Thunderstorms

Summary: One May evening in London, Adam Kindred, a young climatologist in town for a job interview, is feeling good about the future as he sits down for a meal at a little Italian bistro. He strikes up a conversation with a solitary diner at the next table, who leaves soon afterward. With horrifying speed, this chance encounter leads to a series of malign accidents, through which Adam loses everything—home, family, friends, job, reputation, passport, credit cards, cell phone—never to get them back.

The police are searching for him. There is a reward for his capture. A hired killer is stalking him. He is alone and anonymous in a huge, pitiless modern city. Adam has nowhere to go but down—underground. He decides to join that vast army of the disappeared and the missing who throng London’s lowest levels as he tries to figure out what to do with his life and struggles to understand the forces that have made it unravel so spectacularly. Adam's quest will take him all along the river Thames, from affluent Chelsea to the gritty East End, and on the way he will encounter all manner of London's denizens—aristocrats, prostitutes, evangelists, and policewomen—and version after new version of himself.

Ordinary Thunderstorms, William Boyd's electric follow-up to his award-winning Restless, is a profound and gripping novel about the fragility of social identity, the corruption at the heart of big business, and the secrets that lie hidden in the filthy underbelly of every city. -- Harper

When I read the description for ORDINARY THUNDERSTORMS by William Boyd, it sounded like the ideal book for my dad -he's always up for a good thriller. I'm not sure that this one lived up to his expectations, but I still think he enjoyed it.

Here are Booking Pap Pap's thoughts:

ORDINARY THUNDERSTORMS by William Boyd is a story about a man whose life is turned upside down when he finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes the only suspect in the murder of a pharmaceutical scientist. American Adam Kindred, a climatologist interviewing for a job at a London university, recognizes he is being pursued by both the police and the real killer and makes a decision to lose himself in the homeless culture of London. In the process he loses his identity, his money and his contact with his family and friends.

During Adam’s ordeal the reader is introduced to some unusual characters that play pivotal roles in the thriller including Jonjo, the murder for hire thug; Bishop Yemi, the evangelist at the Church of John Christ, Mhouse and Ly-on, the homeless prostitute and her child; Ingram Fryzer, the pharmaceutical CEO and Rita Nashe, the policewoman .

Adam survives in his new environment by begging and stealing and finally gains some semblance of financial security by stealing someone’s identity and working as a hospital porter. It’s during this time that the police determine that Jongo is the real killer and Adam begins a proactive campaign to solve the entire mystery. Through a series of coincidences Adam also meets and begins a relationship with Rita Nashe.

I felt the author made things to easy for Adam. The ease at which Adam journeyed through seedy London from sleeping along the banks of the River Thames to achieving a level of financial security would make real street people envious. Adam’s solving of the crime was also too simple as he ran into no obstacles during his investigation even though he ventured into restricted hospital areas and gathered confidential information from hospital computers.

Adam Kindred is the hero but was a difficult character for me to like. First, he was in London looking for employment because an extramarital affair with a student caused him to lose his job and his marriage. Additionally, Adam in a time of his most severe hardship had money for sex and showed no remorse when he stole a blind man’s cane and used it to beg as a blind man. Finally he showed little emotion or guilt when he had to do harm to other people in advancing his own agenda.

I would classify Ordinary Thunderstorms as a slow paced thriller. I considered the book enjoyable and an easy read. William Boyd gives the reader an up-close and realistic view of the seedy side of London life as well as a look at the ugly side of the pharmaceutical industry. He also is an excellent story teller and developed some very interesting characters. However, I did have some difficulty with the ending of the novel. I felt it left the reader with too many unanswered questions. Maybe the plan is to answer these questions in another novel.

Thanks to Booking Pap Pap for his honest review and to the publisher for sending us a copy of this novel.


Hannah Stoneham said...

Hi - this actually sounds amazingly good. and it is set in my home city - London which I miss now that we are living in France. It also sounds a little like the Ian McEwan brand of taking a tiny moment in a persons life from which everything else changes... interesting and excellent review - thank you for sharing


Beth Kephart said...

I always love your guest reviewers! What an honor to be posted here with you.

bermudaonion said...

Great review, but I'm not sure this book is for me - I like my thrillers to be fast paced.

Beth F said...

I like a speedier thriller too, though the London setting is appealing.

chiangmaicharlies said...

I've just finished the book, and it's like no other William Boyd novel.

chiangmaicharlies said...

I just finished the book. Not like any of his others. Seemed finished in a hurry.Good in parts but certainly not one of his best. I saw a TV programme where it was reviewed harshly.