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on January 29, 2010
William Boyd is a literary craftsman whose skills keep the reader enthralled and informed from the first page to the last. He is the antidote to all the overpraised writers fawned over erroneously in the current publishing climate of `name' and `brand' because they lucked into (often undeserved) popularity. Boyd is the real thing: a writer.

`Ordinary Thunderstorms' (the title reflects the way in which simple climatic phenomena can grow in complexity to major events) is brilliantly observed and meticulously written. No reader in the U.S. should stay away simply because it deals significantly with London and the Thames. It explains much that curious and intelligent readers want to know about any major world city, a stunning insider view that strips modern London to its truths.

Boyd takes us into the times, places and events with unerring skill, drawing out the characters with exquisite detail of appearance, speech, environment, motivation and behavior. This is a thriller of extraordinary dimensions, and one can only hope it will be filmed, to provide (yet again) counterpoint to the mindless drivel that passes increasingly for movie entertainment these days.

I will not reveal the plot. The suspense is excruciating, and who would deny a reader that pleasure? Suffice it to say that Boyd traces the life and transformation into other worlds and identities of a young British college professor, newly returned to the U.K. from the U.S., dragged unsuspecting into a murder for which he is considered guilty. As it evolves, the story encompasses a pharmaceutical-corporation deception of global intricacy, a murder-for-hire thug, a young black prostitute and her son, a revivalist mission, and the London police. Every character is memorable, every chapter turns the screw tighter, until the reader is caught up in the plot intricacies at ever-heightened levels of tension and anxiety. In this, Boyd shows his skills as a writer: it all fits, like the structure of a complex pharmaceutical molecule, and the necessary suspensions of disbelief are few and forgivable. This is entertainment at rarified levels of execution.

Boyd does one other thing, and it is important. He never overwrites. He uses only the right amount of unaffected words and appropriate levels of detail to tell his story. In this (read some of my other reviews for amplification) he provides a model for other writers who apparently can't stop themselves from telling us too much, in too lengthy and repetitive forms, and who seem to be in love with the sound of their own voices. Boyd "tells it like it is" as directly as he can. He richly deserves all the praise that is heaped on him in the UK.
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on January 1, 2010
The drop is closer than you think.

A young man - Adam Kindred - through a misfortunate occurrence is forced to change his life and persona. He becomes another person entirely and enters a world previously unknown to him: living, for a time, as a down and out in London. He truly disappears, goes underground and his previous existence vanishes.

The necessity comes from the fact that Adam is persistently hunted by a lone gunman, and comes close to being killed. The tragedy is that the new Adam eventually loses his own sense of morality and carries out a terrible crime, seemingly with little remorse or reflection.

Reminiscent of George Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London" we are taken into an underworld of poverty, crime and hopelessness, with no place for the ordinary morality we take for granted. The realisation that this world is so close to our ordinary lives is a sobering one - as well as the concept that a mere misfortune could send any of us plunging into its dark despair. Particularly chilling is the concept that an individual can be killed and the body disposed of so easily in a great city like London. All underneath our very noses.

William Boyd seems to invent, for this underclass, a type of street language - using words like "flat" and "Green Peas" - helping to immerse the reader into this bizarre world.

William Boyd has explored the concept of altered identities in other books but it is fully fleshed out in this tale.

The story moves along at a great pace - with each chapter bringing fresh developments in the plot. It contains so much:

- Psychopathic murders - hit men, contracts involving the security forces
- Financial intrigue, double dealing, insider trading, fraud
- Boardroom coupes
- An insight into drug testing and vast financial rewards certain individuals achieve
- Love and relationships

I thoroughly enjoyed this book - but was left with a profound sense of unease - speculating as to whether there really is an alternative society living in parallel to our own, and how close we all are to joining it.
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on February 1, 2010
Climatologist Adam Kindred has just finished an interview at Imperial College. It went very well, and he knows it. As he walks alongside the Thames, almost heady with the success within his grasp, a taste for Italian food suddenly comes over him. Surely that can't be too hard to find. "He crosses the road, having no idea how his life is about to change in the next few hours --- massively, irrevocably --- no idea at all."

The restaurant is excellent, and as he savors his scaloppine al vitello, he nods to a man seated nearby, also eating alone. They exchange polite greetings and a short, innocuous conversation ensues. But after the other man leaves, Adam realizes that he left behind a file. Fortunately, it has a name --- Dr. Philip Wang --- and an address on it. Did this fellow Wang do it on purpose? Could he maybe be trying to set up some lurid tryst? Adam pushes these thoughts aside and walks the file over to the address. And that's when everything goes horribly wrong.

Just when Adam thought he was about to celebrate a new, lucrative position, instead he finds himself running from the law. Panicked, he holes up for the night, thinking some sane resolution will occur to him shortly. By morning, there is a "wanted" notice in the newspaper, with an impressive reward for his capture. He actually considers turning himself in; he even goes to the police station. In the end, he loses his nerve and decides to lay low and wait for the cops to find the right man. In the meantime, however, he discovers that it's not just the police looking for him. He's caught between the proverbial rock and hard place, for if the police find him, he'll surely go to jail for a long time. But if the freelancer gets to him first, Adam will likely never make it to jail --- or anywhere else, for that matter.

In desperation, Adam tears open the file. If only he could understand what it is that he holds in his hands, maybe he'd be able to make sense of the situation. The only information that he finds useful is that Dr. Wang worked for a big pharmaceutical company, Calenture-Deutz. In fact, he seemed to be the head researcher in a very exciting battery of tests that may clear the way for a new wonder drug. The potential for enormous wealth is clear, and Adam knows how little value his life would have if he were to come between Calenture-Deutz and the promise of such unimaginably huge profits.

With a little over 118 pounds Sterling in his pocket, Adam becomes highly resourceful. He spends his money wisely, and finds a quiet place to tuck in and hide while the cops sort it all out. But the investigation doesn't go quite as he hoped, and the days stretch into weeks, and then into months. Adam follows where fate takes him, which leads him into grave danger.

Eventually, it becomes apparent to Adam that he must somehow intervene in Calenture-Deutz's plans, for they seem to be the key to the predicament he finds himself in. If he has any hope of regaining his old life, he must strike back and soon. Time is of the essence.

There's a lot going on in ORDINARY THUNDERSTORMS, some of it a bit far-fetched, but all of it entertaining to say the least. It's a clever new twist on an old scenario. You can't help but find yourself wondering, "What would I do if this were to happen to me?"

--- Reviewed by Kate Ayers
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on December 7, 2011
This book held my interest and I didn't get bogged down with a lot of details. It sure lets the reader know how your life can change in a second from high to low or low to high. Good story. Also how people can survive if they have to and just use their god given brain. Also the resources around them.
It tells how a person can be innocent yet look so guilty with everything against them. It tells how people will use you if you are not careful.
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on February 19, 2015
The storyline is fine though not as compelling for me as that of Boyd's Restless. My rating has to do with the print errors. There are countless editing/typeset errors that are distracting to the point of making the beginning of the book almost unreadable. These are not occasional errors; they are incessant. The publisher is Harper Perennial. It has - P.S. Insights, Interviews & More - on the cover. Many of the errors have to do with unusually large spacing in contractions and possessives: it 's, he 's, water 's edge, Adam 's briefcase, Wang 's file. Besides this, words are run together; letters are superimposed over each other. There are occasional random spaces in the middle of words such as - con fidence - on page 13. There are words run together such as - whosefingerprints - on page 27. I'm hoping that this edition is a fluke, because I've never before seen anything like this!
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VINE VOICEon September 24, 2011
Have you ever set aside a book promising yourself to read it later, because another book came along that you were dying to read? Then another book comes along that was well hyped and then another. Eventually you find that first book under a pile of other books you have read. You finally get a chance to read it and it turns out this book is better than many of the other books you read since you first set this one aside. Ordinary Thunderstorms: A Novel is that book. Adam Kindred is a young man who strikes up a casual conversation with a stranger in a small Italian bistro in a suburb of London. From this minor encounter his life begins to fall apart like a tumbling row of dominoes. He is soon running from not only the police, but also a killer who is desperate to find him. Adam sees only one way out, to disappear. But how do you disappear in a city that has more closed circuit televisions scanning the populace than any other city in the world. How do you not leave a trail, when any financial transaction or a meeting with a public official could be recorded and lead back to you. It is after all, the information age. We are all tied in myriad ways to the grid. How do you utterly disappear in the heart of London? I enjoyed this book very much. I felt a couple of the scenarios were a bit thin, but the author pulled them off. The writing was very good overall. The characters were deftly brought to life. I found myself routing for the hero to persevere. Perhaps we all have that subliminal desire from time to time to vanish from our present lives and see if we could start over again. This book was provided for review by the well read folks at Harper Perennial.
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on January 2, 2012
There are whodunits and there are whodunits. This one takes the whodunit mystery-slash-procedural and turns it on its heel. Because instead of the protagonist, in this case mild-mannered scientist Adam Kindred, solving the mystery (he's accused of killing a man when in fact he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time) he does the opposite--he goes to ground hoping that the professionals will do their job and solve the case. If he can just stay hidden long enough he's sure the rightful killer will be found and he will be exonerated. But they don't and it turns out that there's some bad guys on Adam's trail while Adam stumbles along trying to disappear, no easy thing in a modern society. Really, this is the best murder-mystery nobody ever heard of. Read it and enjoy.
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on November 17, 2010
I did not buy Adam Kindred's decision to go underground. A well-educated, logical person like him would have gone to the police and worked the situation out. There is no way he would have signed into Wang's building if he was going to murder him. This is a flimsy story that lost me within the first 15 pages. I am a huge Boyd fan, and I have read all his previous novels. What a disppointment!
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on August 5, 2014
I'm trying, I'm REALLY trying to like this book. I'm 40% in and it doesn't seem to be going anyplace. And those darn hyphens everywhere. I'm reading on a Kindle Paperwhite Ver. 2.0 and nothing will get rid of them. I've changed text size and that didn't help either. Either this is a print to ebook conversion artifact, or the Brits have no idea how to use a hyphen in a sentence. I'll go for the latter since the rest of the book is chock loaded with punctuation errors. It's also full of nonsense names, nonsense locations, and I'm starting to believe, nonsense people and plots as well. This is my first book by this author and I guarantee it's my last and only as well. I'm glad I only paid $2.00 (on a special 50 books for two bucks offer) because I would be real pissed off if I had spent the full $10.23 Amazon is charging for this. If I can make it all the way to the hy-phen-at-ed very stilted end I'll come back and add final impressions to this review. If I don't come back here to add an update then just figure that I couldn't stand to pull any more of my hair out and that I didn't complete the book.

EDIT: Upon actually finishing this book I can say that the ending was a big let down. Everybody in this story (actually around four different stories) was a scoundrel and/or a weasel with none of the characters likable. I really wanted to like the main protagonist, Adam, but as the story progressed I started to hate him more and more. What a sorry piece of trash, both Adam and the story! I've downgraded this book to one star and would give it zero if I were allowed to do so.
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on December 18, 2011
Picked this out on a whim, not having followed the author, but duly impressed by the awards and praise. It's rare I find a writer that I wonder how I missed him, since I inhale books when I'm not trying to peck away myself. Boyd is a treasure and I'm searching out more of his material now. Ordinary Thunderstorms didn't disappoint, although some of the story needed a suspension of belief. I always suspect when a civilian outsmarts professionals, sometimes even physically dominates. Adam Kindred does both, defeating a hardened SAS fighter, foiling police, the law, and actually getting away with murder. While some of the tale was a tad unbelievable, the writing was superb.
Ron Lealos
Author of Don't Mean Nuthin'
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