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Ordinary Thunderstorms: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – Bargain Price, February 1, 2011
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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`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.
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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