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Ordinary Thunderstorms: A Novel Hardcover – January 26, 2010

3.6 out of 5 stars 111 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2010: In his surprising new novel (think The Fugitive meets Nobody's Fool), William Boyd explores how one chance occurrence can evolve rapidly into a life-leveling storm. Climatologist Adam Kindred is trying to establish a new life in London (far from his failed marriage and ruined career in the US) when he inadvertently stumbles upon a botched murder and becomes the chief suspect. Boyd manages to breathe new life into the wrong-man tale, weaving together vivid back-stories of intriguing characters, from the hired killer desperate to clean up his mess, to the ruthless executives out for profit, to the hardscrabble individuals Kindred meets while on the run. Ordinary Thunderstorms is anything but ordinary--an ambitious, engaging thriller that also raises questions about identity, religion, and social responsibility. --Daphne Durham

From Publishers Weekly

Whitbread-winner Boyd (A Good Man in Africa) ventures into thriller territory with this fast-paced Hitchcockian wrong-man whodunit. While in London interviewing for an academic posting, climatologist Adam Kindred, by chance, meets immunologist Philip Wang at a restaurant. When Wang leaves a folder full of papers behind, Adam tries to return them to Wang's flat only to find the man's bloody corpse—and to leave evidence of his visit all over. Fearful of pursuing police and a persistent hired assassin, Adam flees with Wang's papers and goes underground. Meanwhile, at Wang's pharmaceutical company, the CEO uncovers a coup brewing to oust him and rush to market the anti-allergy drug Wang hadn't yet finished testing and for which the missing papers are crucial data. The disparate story lines eventually weave a competently plotted tale of corporate and criminal skullduggery that bows under the weight of improbable coincidences and stock characters. (Feb.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (January 26, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061876747
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061876745
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (111 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #786,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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.
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Format: Paperback
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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