So, this is the first book in a while that hasn’t had anything to do with any of my university courses. This is one of those spur-of-the-moment purchases that I got at a second-hand book stall (where a large portion of my TBR list originated) and I was rather looking forward to reading this. Why? Partially it’s a strange sentimental thing as it’s been patiently waiting for a while now and the other, main, reason is that I do like Hugh Laurie (not so much House considering the ridiculous ease with which he now cures every patient that stumbles his way, more the occasional episode of Jeeves and Wooster that I happen to find). So has it lived up to my self-induced hype?
The story concerns a British gun-for-hire Thomas Lang, who, when offered a large sum of money to assassinate an American industrialist, decides that the better thing to do would be to warn him instead. This leads to him getting involved in a convoluted scheme regarding the creation and selling of weapons, hence the title. Sounds great, right? Having finished it, I have one, rather large, problem with the book as a whole, and it revolves around Thomas, our protagonist and narrator. I am assuming that everyone reading this has daydreamed at one time or another, and a vast majority of those daydreams are likely to involve you in what you would perceive as a more glamorous and/or exciting lifestyle (for example: warrior/soldier, astronaut, fire-fighter, lover of [insert name of unattainable crush] etc). For me, Thomas Lang sounded like what Hugh Laurie would imagine himself to be if he were a spy; Thomas is articulate, witty, irreverent, has a very British sense of humour and just a dash of self-loathing, all traits that Hugh Laurie himself has shown time and time again. For me, it’s rather off-putting when the similarities between character and creator are so blatant; not that I’m saying that the effort isn’t there. Thomas and the book as a whole is very well put together, with the various different strands coming together just at the right time. I just don’t think that essentially putting himself into the narrative, as the main character to boot, was an especially good move.
What I would definitely count in the book’s favour though is the skill with which Laurie writes. He is a very readable person, and for me the book just flew along, with enough fabulous one-liners and quirky descriptions to keep me happy; this line in particular, when Thomas and his sort-of love interest are walking on Hampstead Heath at night, would have to be my favourite:
“Swallows flitted here and there, darting in and out of the trees and bushes like furtive homosexuals, while the furtive homosexuals flitted here and there, pretty much like swallows.”
So while I may have issues with some of the characterisation, I think that Mr Laurie has this plot and style lark down a treat.
This has been a bit of a short review, but then for me the characterisation was the only thing that really bothered me about this book. Overall, it’s fairly inconsequential, good for passing an enjoyable evening or two, but nothing that will stay with you long after you’ve finished. A good book for a holiday perhaps. 3.5/5
Next review: Horns by Joe Hill.