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Ordinary Thunderstorms: A Novel

Ordinary Thunderstorms: A Novel

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Ordinary Thunderstorms: A Novel

4/5 (60 ratings)
467 pages
8 hours
Jan 26, 2010


“William Boyd seems singularly blessed with both an innate love of storytelling and the talent to render those stories in swift, confident prose.” —The New York Times

From William Boyd, award-winning author of Brazzaville Beach and Restless, comes a stunning literary mystery about crime and punishment: Ordinary Thunderstorms. One of the most accomplished writers of our time, Boyd has written 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.

Jan 26, 2010

About the author

William Boyd is also the author of A Good Man in Africa, winner of the Whitbread Award and the Somerset Maugham Award; An Ice-Cream War, winner of the John Llewellyn Rhys War Prize and short-listed for the Booker Prize; Brazzaville Beach, winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; Restless, winner of the Costa Novel of the Year; Ordinary Thunderstorms; and Waiting for Sunrise, among other books. He lives in London.

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Ordinary Thunderstorms - William Boyd



LET US START WITH the river–all things begin with the river and we shall probably end there, no doubt–but let’s wait and see how we go. Soon, in a minute or two, a young man will come and stand by the river’s edge, here at Chelsea Bridge, in London.

There he is–look–stepping hesitantly down from a taxi, paying the driver, gazing around him, unthinkingly, glancing over at the bright water (it’s a flood tide and the river is unusually high). He’s a tall, pale-faced young man, early thirties, even-featured with tired eyes, his short dark hair neatly cut and edged as if fresh from the barber. He is new to the city, a stranger, and his name is Adam Kindred. He has just been interviewed for a job and feels like seeing the river (the interview having been the usual tense encounter, with a lot at stake), answering a vague desire to ‘get some air’. The recent interview explains why, beneath his expensive trenchcoat, he is wearing a charcoal-grey suit, a maroon tie with a new white shirt and why he’s carrying a glossy solid-looking black briefcase with heavy brass locks and corner trim. 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.

Adam walked over to the high stone balustrade that curved the roadway into Chelsea Bridge and, leaning on it, looked down at the Thames. The tide was high and still coming in, he saw, the normal flow of water reversed, flotsam moving surprisingly quickly upstream, heading inland, as if the sea were dumping its rubbish in the river rather than the usual, other way round. Adam strolled up the bridge’s wide walkway heading for midstream, his gaze sweeping from the four chimneys of Battersea Power Station (one blurred with a cross-hatching of scaffolding) to the west, past the gold finial of the Peace Pagoda towards the two chimneys of Lots Road Power Station. The plane trees in Battersea Park, on the far bank, were still some way from full leaf–only the horse chestnuts were precociously, densely green. Early May in London…He turned and looked back at the Chelsea shore: more trees–he’d forgotten how leafy some parts of London were, how positively bosky. The roofs of the grand, red brick, riverine Victorian mansion blocks rose above the level of the Embankment’s avenue of planes. How high? Sixty feet? Eighty? Apart from the susurrus of ceaseless traffic, the occasional klaxon and whooping siren, he didn’t feel as if he were in the middle of a huge city at all: the trees, the quiet force of the surging, tidal river beneath his feet, that special luminescence that a body of water throws off, made him grow calmer–he’d been right to come to the river–odd how these instincts mysteriously drive you, he thought.

He walked back, his eye held by a clearly defined, attenuated triangle of waste ground to the west side of Chelsea Bridge, formed by the bridge itself, the water’s edge and the four lanes of the Embankment. It was bulked out with vegetation, dense with long grass and thick unpruned bushes and trees. He thought, idly, that such a patch of land must be worth a tidy fortune in this location, even a thin long triangle of waste ground, and he built, in his mind’s eye, a three-storey wedge of a dozen bijou, balconied apartments. Then he saw that in order to achieve this he’d have to cut down a huge fig tree, close to the bridge–decades old, he reckoned, drawing nearer to it, its big shiny leaves still growing, stiffly fresh. A venerable fig tree by the Thames, he thought: strange–how had it been planted there and what happened to the fruit? He conjured up a vision of a plate of Parma ham and halved fresh figs. Where had he eaten that? On his honeymoon in Portofino with Alexa? Or earlier? On one of his student holidays, perhaps…It was a mistake to think of Alexa, he realised, his new mood of calm replaced at once by one of sadness and anger, so he concentrated instead on the small surges of hunger he was experiencing, and felt, thinking of the figs and Parma ham, a sudden need for Italian food: Italian food of a simple, honest, basic sort–insalata tricolore, pasta alle vongole, scallopine al limone, torta di nonna. That would do nicely.

He wandered into Chelsea and almost immediately in the quiet streets behind the Royal Hospital found, to his considerable astonishment, an Italian restaurant–as if he were in a fairy tale. There it was, tucked under yellow awnings badged with a Venetian lion, in a narrow street of white stucco and beige-brick terraced houses–it seemed an anomaly, a fantasy. No shops, no pub, no other restaurant in sight–how had it managed to establish itself here amongst the residents? Adam looked at his watch–6.20–a bit early to eat but he was genuinely hungry now and he could see there were already a few other customers inside. Then a smiling, tanned man came to the door and held it open for him, urging, ‘Come in, sir, come in, yes, we are open, come in, come in.’ This man took his coat from him, hung it on a peg and ushered him past the small bar through to the light L-shaped room, shouting genial instructions and rebukes at the other waiters, as if Adam were his most cherished regular and was being inconvenienced by their inefficiency in some way.

He sat Adam down at a table for two with his back to the street outside. He offered to look after Adam’s briefcase but Adam decided it would stay with him as he took the proffered menu and glanced around. Eight tourists–four men, four women–sat at a large round table, eating silently, all dressed in blue with identical blue tote bags at their feet, and there was another solitary man sitting two tables away along from him, who had taken his spectacles off and was dabbing his face with a tissue. He looked agitated, ill at ease in some way, and he glanced over as he replaced his spectacles. As their eyes met the man gave that inclination of the head, the small smile of acknowledgement–the solidarity of the solitary diner–that says I am not sad or lonely, this is something that I have happily chosen to do, just like you. He had a couple of folders and other papers spread on the table in front of him. Adam smiled back.

Adam ate the house salad–spinach, bacon, shaved parmesan and a creamy dressing–and was halfway through his scallopine al vitello (green beans, roast potatoes on the side) when the other solitary diner leant over and asked him if he knew the exact time. His accent was American, his English flawless. Adam told him–6.52–the man carefully adjusted his watch and they inevitably began to talk. The man introduced himself as Dr Philip Wang. Adam reciprocated and supplied the information that this was his first trip to London since he had been a child. Dr Wang confirmed that he too knew very little of the city. He lived and worked in Oxford–paying only short, infrequent visits to London, a day or two at a time, when he had to see patients taking part in a research project he was running. Adam said he’d come to London from America, was applying for a job here, wanting to ‘relocate’, to come back home, as it were.

‘A job?’ Dr Wang asked, looking at his smart suit. ‘Are you in finance?’ His speculation seemed to carry with it a tone of disapproval.

‘No, a university job–a research fellowship–at Imperial College,’ Adam added, wondering if he might now be vindicated. ‘I just came from the interview.’

‘Good school,’ Wang said, distantly, then, ‘Yeah…’ as if his mind was on something else, then, collecting himself, asked politely, ‘How did it go?’

Adam shrugged and said he could never predict these things. The three people who had interviewed him–two men and a woman with a near-shaven head–had given nothing away, being almost absurdly polite and formal, so unlike his former American colleagues, Adam had thought at the time.

‘Imperial College. So, you’re a scientist,’ Wang said. ‘So am I. What’s your field?’

‘Climatology,’ Adam said. ‘What about you?’

Wang thought for a second as if he wasn’t sure of the answer. ‘Immunology, I guess, yeah…Or you could say I was an allergist,’ he said, then glancing at his newly adjusted watch said he’d better go, had work to do, calls to make. He paid his bill, in cash, and clumsily gathered up his papers, spilling sheaves on the floor, stooping to pick them up, muttering to himself–suddenly he seemed more than a little distracted again, as if, now the meal had come to an end, his real life had recommenced with its many pressures and anxieties. Finally he stood and shook Adam’s hand, wishing him luck, hoping he had got the job. ‘I have a good feeling about it,’ Wang added, illogically, ‘a real good feeling.’

Adam was halfway through his tiramisu when he noticed that Wang had left something behind: a transparent plastic zippable folder under the seat between their tables, half obscured by the hanging flap of the tablecloth. He reached for it and saw that on the front was a small pocket that contained Wang’s business card. Adam extracted it and read: ‘DR PHILIP Y. WANG MD, PhD (Yale), FBSI, MAAI’, and under that ‘Head of Research & Development CALENTURE-DEUTZ plc’. On the reverse there were two addresses with phone numbers, one in the Cherwell Business Park, Oxford (Unit 10) and the other in London–Anne Boleyn House, Sloane Avenue, SW3.

As he paid his bill, pleased to remember his new pin code, tapping it without hesitation into the handset, Adam asked if Dr Wang was a regular customer and was informed that he’d never been seen in the restaurant before. Adam decided he’d drop the file off himself–it seemed a friendly and helpful thing to do, especially as Wang had been so enthusiastic about his career prospects–and asked directions to Sloane Avenue.

Walking along the King’s Road, still busy with shoppers (almost exclusively French or Spanish, it seemed), Adam thought suddenly that perhaps Wang had deliberately left his file for him to discover. He wondered if it was a way of seeing him again: two lonely men in the city, wanting some company…Was it, even, a gay thing, a ploy? Adam had sometimes wondered if there was something about him that gay men found attractive. He could recall three precise occasions when he had been flirted with and another when a man had waited for him outside the lavatory of a restaurant in Tucson, Arizona and had forced a kiss on him. Adam didn’t think Wang was gay–no, that was preposterous–but he decided it would be wise to phone ahead and so eased Wang’s card out of its tight plastic niche, sat down on a wooden bench outside a pub, fished out his mobile phone and made the call.

‘Philip Wang.’

‘Dr Wang, it’s Adam Kindred. We just met at the restaurant—’

‘Of course–and you have my file. Thank you so much. I just called them and they told me you had it.’

‘I thought it’d be quicker if I dropped it off.’

‘That’s so kind of you. Please come up and have a drink–oh, there’s someone at the door. That’s not you, is it?’

Adam laughed, said he thought he was five minutes or so away and clicked his phone shut. Come up and have a drink–perfectly friendly, no sexual innuendo there–but perhaps it was the American accent, professionally flat, giving away nothing, that made Adam think that Wang had been insufficiently surprised to hear he was on his way round…

Anne Boleyn House was an imposing, almost fortress-like 1930s art deco block of service flats with a small semicircle of box-hedged drive-in and a uniformed porter in the lobby sitting behind a long marble-topped counter. Adam signed his name in a register and was directed to Flat G 14 on the seventh floor. After his phone call he had thought over the necessity of seeing Wang again–he could have safely left the file with the porter, he now realised–but he had nothing else to do and he didn’t particularly want to go back to his modest hotel in Pimlico: a drink or two with Wang would kill some time and, besides, Wang seemed an interesting and educated man.

Adam stepped out of the lift into a wholly featureless long corridor–dark parquet, pistachio walls, identical flush doors differentiated only by their number. Like cells, he thought, or, in a film, it might have been a lazy art director’s vision of Kafkaesque conformity. And there was an unpleasant nose-tickling, odorous overlay–of wax polish mingled with potent, bleachy lavatory cleanser. Small glaringly bright lights set into the ceiling lit the way to Flat G 14, where the corridor made a right-angled turn to reveal another length of soulless, service-flat perspective. A glowing green exit light shone at its end.

Adam saw that Wang had left his door slightly ajar–a sign of welcome?–but he rang the bell all the same, thinking that it wouldn’t do simply to walk in. He heard Wang come through a door, heard a door close, but no call of ‘Adam? Do come in, please.’

He rang the bell again.

‘Hello?’ Adam pushed the door slightly. ‘Dr Wang? Philip?’

He opened the door and stepped into a small, boxy living room. Two armchairs close to a coffee table, a huge flat-screen TV, some dried flowers in straw vases. A small galley kitchen behind two louvred half-doors. Adam set his briefcase down by the coffee table and placed Wang’s file beside a fan of golfing magazines, all smiling men in pastel colours brandishing their clubs. Then he heard Wang’s voice, low and urgent.

‘Adam? I’m in here…’

The next room. No, please, not the bedroom, surely? Adam thought to himself, urgently regretting coming up as he stepped over to the door and pushed it open.

‘I can only stay five min—’

Philip Wang lay on top of his bed in a widening pool of blood. He was alive, very conscious, and a hand, flipper-like, gestured Adam towards him. The room had been trashed, two small filing cabinets up-ended and emptied, drawers from a bedside table tipped out, a wardrobe cleared with a swipe or two, clothes and hangers scattered.

Wang pointed to his left side. Adam hadn’t noticed–the handle of a knife protruded from Wang’s sopping sweater.

‘Pull it out,’ Wang said. His face showed signs of a beating–his spectacles distorted but unbroken, a trickle of blood from a nostril, a split lip, a red impact-circle on a cheekbone.

‘Are you sure?’ Adam said.

‘Please, now…’

With fluttering hands he seemed to guide Adam’s right hand to the hilt of the knife. Adam gripped it loosely.

‘I don’t think this is the sort of thing—’

‘One quick movement,’ Wang said and coughed. A little blood overflowed from his mouth down his chin.

‘Are you absolutely sure?’ Adam repeated. ‘I don’t know if it’s the correct—’


Without further thought Adam gripped the knife and drew it out, as easily as if from a scabbard. It was a breadknife, he noticed, as a surge of released blood followed the withdrawal, travelling up the blade and wetting Adam’s knuckles, warmly.

‘I’ll call the police,’ Adam said and placed the knife down, unthinkingly wiping his dripping fingers on the coverlet.

‘The file,’ Wang said, fingers twitching, moving, as if tapping at an invisible keyboard.

‘I have it.’

‘Whatever you do, don’t—’ Wang died then, with a short gasp of what seemed like exasperation.

Adam stepped away, appalled, horrified, stumbled against a pile of Wang’s jackets and trousers, and went back into the living room, looking for a phone. He saw it sitting on a neat, purpose-built shelf by the door and as he reached for the receiver saw that there was still some blood on his hand, still dripping from an unwiped finger. Some drops fell on the telephone.

‘Shit…’ he said, realising this was his first articulated expression of shock. What in the name of fuck was going on?

Then he heard the window in Wang’s bedroom open and somebody step heavily inside. And the terror he was feeling left in an instant. Or at least he thought it was the window–maybe it was from the bathroom–but he had heard the clunking sound of a catch being released, one of those brass handles that secured the mass-produced steel-framed and many-paned glass windows that gave Anne Boleyn House its slightly depressed, institutional air.

Adam grabbed his briefcase and Wang’s file and left the flat rapidly, closing the door behind him with a bang. He looked towards the lifts and then decided against them, turning the corner and striding normally, not running, not unduly fast, towards the green exit light and the fire stairs.

He descended seven floors of the dimly lit stone stairs without seeing anyone and emerged on to a side street behind Anne Boleyn House beside four towering grey rubbish bins on sturdy rubber wheels. There was a powerful smell of decomposing food that made Adam gag and he spat, squatting down to open his briefcase and slip Wang’s file inside. He looked up to see two young chefs in their white jackets and blue checkerboard trousers lighting up cigarettes in a doorway a few yards off.

‘Stinks, dunnit?’ one of them called over with a grin on his face.

Adam gave them a thumbs-up and headed off, still at what he imagined was an easy saunter, in the opposite direction.

He wandered Chelsea’s streets for a while, aimlessly, trying to sort things out in his mind, trying to make some sense of what he had witnessed and what had taken place. His head was jangled, a shocking, fractured mosaic of recent images–Wang’s battered face, the hilt of the breadknife, his twitching, tapping hand gesture –but he was not too jangled to realise what he had just done and the consequences of his importunate, natural reactions. He should never have obeyed Wang’s instruction, he now realised. He should never have pulled the knife out, never–he should have simply gone to the telephone and dialled 911–999, rather. Now he had traces of Wang’s blood on his hands and under his fingernails and, even worse, his fingerprints were on the fucking knife itself. But what else could anyone have done in such a situation? another side of his brain yelled at him, in frustrated rage. You had no choice: it was a dying, agonised man’s last request. Wang had practically fitted his fingers around the knife’s hilt, begging him to pull it out, begging him–

He stopped walking for a second, telling himself to calm down. His face was covered in sweat, his chest was heaving as if he’d just run a mile. He exhaled, noisily, slow down, slow down. Think, think back…He set off again. Had he interrupted Wang’s actual murder? Or was it just some robbery gone hideously wrong? He thought: the door he had heard close as he came in to the flat must have been the perpetrator leaving the bedroom–and the sound of the person re-entering must have been the perpetrator, again–the murderer, again. He must have come in from a balcony, he realised, as he now remembered noting that some of the Boleyn’s higher service flats had narrow balconies. So the man had slipped out when he heard Adam come in and had waited on the balcony and then when he heard Adam leave the bedroom to phone…Yes, the police, must call, Adam reminded himself. Perhaps, he thought suddenly, it had been a terrible, foolish mistake to have left, to have run away down the stairs…But if that man had caught him, what then? No–completely understandable, had to get out, had to, fast, or he might be dead himself, now, Jesus…He reached into his jacket for his mobile and saw Wang’s blood now dry on his knuckles. Wash that off, first.

He wandered into an open space, a kind of wide square giving on to a sports ground and an art gallery, oddly, where small grouped fountains spouted from holes in the paving stones, couples sat around on low walls and a few kids whizzed to and fro on their expensive metal scooters.

He crouched by a fountain and washed his right hand in the cold water, a wobbling vertical column flowing upward, defying gravity. His right hand was now clean–and now trembling, he saw–he needed a drink, he needed to calm down, give his thoughts some order, then he would call the police: something was nagging at him at the back of his mind, something he had done or not done, and he just needed a little time to think.

Adam asked directions to Pimlico and set off, once sure of where he should be heading. On his way there he found a pub, reassuringly mediocre–indeed, as if ‘average’ subsumed all its ambitions: an averagely stained patterned carpet, middle-of-the-road muzak playing, three gaming machines pinging and gonging away not too loudly, a shabby-looking blue-collar clientele, a perfectly acceptable number of beers available and unexceptionable pub food on offer–pies, sandwiches and a dish of the day (smearily erased). Adam felt oddly reassured by this pointed decision to settle for the acceptable norm, to strive for nothing higher than the tolerable median. He would remember this place. He ordered a large whisky with ice and a packet of peanuts, took his drink to a table in the corner and began to reflect.

He felt guilt. Why did he feel guilty–he’d done nothing wrong? Was it because he had run away?…But anyone would have run in his situation, he told himself: the shock, the presence of a killer in the next room…It was an atavistic fear, a sense of illogical responsibility–something every innocent child knows when confronted by serious trouble. It had been the obvious, natural course of action to run out quickly and safely and take stock. He needed a little time, a little space…

He sipped at his whisky, relishing the alcohol burn in his throat. He chomped peanuts, licking the residual salt from his palm, picking the impacted shards from his teeth with a fingernail. What was bothering him? Was it what Wang had said, his last words? ‘Whatever you do, don’t—’ Don’t what? Don’t take the file? Don’t leave the file? And then he thought of Wang dead and the delayed shock hit him again and he shivered. He went to the bar and ordered more whisky and another bag of peanuts.

Adam drank his whisky and consumed his peanuts with a velocity and hunger that surprised him, emptying the packet into his cupped palm and tipping the nuts carelessly into his mouth in an almost ape-like way (stray peanuts bouncing off the table top in front of him). The packet was emptied in seconds, crumpled and placed on the table where it cracklingly tried to uncrumple itself for a further few seconds, while Adam picked up and ate the individual peanuts that had escaped his immediate furious appetite. He wondered, as he savoured the salty, waxy peanut taste, if there were a more nutritious or satisfying foodstuff on the planet–sometimes salted peanuts were all that man required.

He went to the gents’ lavatory, stooping down a narrow, bendy staircase–as though it had aspired to be spiral once but had given up halfway through the transformation–to a pungent basement where beer and urine competed on the olfactory level. As he washed his hands again beneath the unsparing glare of the light above the sinks he saw that his shirt and tie were freckled with tiny dark polka-dots–polka-dots of blood he assumed, Dr Wang’s blood…Adam felt suddenly faint, remembering the scene in Wang’s flat, remembering the withdrawal of the breadknife and the bloody surge that followed it. The delayed shock at what he had done and witnessed returned to him–he would go back to his hotel, he resolved suddenly, change his shirt (keeping this one for evidence) and then call the police. No one would blame him for leaving the crime scene–what with the man, the murderer on the balcony, re-entering. Impossible to remain calm and lucid under these circumstances–no, no, no–no blame attaching, at all.

He rehearsed his story as he walked back to Pimlico and Grafton Lodge–his modest hotel–pausing a couple of times to check his bearings in these near identical streets of terraced, white-stuccoed houses, and then, once he was sure he was going in the right direction, setting off again with new confidence, happy in the certitude of his decision-making process, pleased that this awful night–the terrible things he had witnessed–would have their proper judicial closure.

Grafton Lodge consisted of two of these terraced houses knocked together to form a small eighteen-bedroom hotel. Despite the overt pretensions of its name, the owners–Seamus and Donal–had a cursive pink neon sign in a ground-floor window that flashed ‘VACANCIES’ in best B-movie fashion and the front door was badged with logos of international travel agencies, tour groups and hotel guides–a shiny collage of decals, transfers and plastic honoraria. From Vancouver to Osaka, apparently, Grafton Lodge was a home from home.

To be fair, Adam had no complaints about his small clean room overlooking the mews lane at the back. Everything worked: the Teasmade, the shower, the mini bar, the TV with its ninety-eight channels. Seamus and Donal were charming and helpful and solicitous about his every need, yet, as he turned up the street towards the hotel and saw its pink neon ‘VACANCIES’ sign flashing, he felt a small shudder of dread vibrate through him. He stopped and forced himself to think: it was now well over an hour, nearly two hours, in fact, since he had fled from Anne Boleyn House. However, he had signed his name in the visitors’ register that the porter had proffered to him–Adam Kindred–and had written down Grafton Lodge, SW1, as his home address. That was the huge, catastrophic mistake he had been worried about, that was what had been nagging at him…The last person to visit Philip Wang before his death had obligingly left his name and address in the guest ledger. He felt a sudden nausea, considering the implications of this guileless self-identification as he approached Grafton Lodge. All seemed well–through the decal-encrusted glass door he saw Seamus at the reception desk talking to one of the chambermaids–Branca, he thought she was called–and he could see a few customers in the residents-only lounge bar. Across the street a black cab was parked, its ‘for hire’ light off, its driver dozing at the wheel–no doubt waiting for one of the revelling businessmen in the lounge bar to eventually emerge.

Adam urged himself onward: go in, go to your room, change your bloodied clothes, call the police and go to a police station–bring the whole horrible business to a proper, decent conclusion. It seemed the only sensible way forward, the only completely normal course of action, so he wondered why he decided to walk down the access lane at the end of the street and try to look up at his window from the mews behind. Something else was nagging at him now, something else he had or had not done, and that act, or non-act, was spooking him. If he could remember what it was and could rationalise about it perhaps he’d feel calmer.

He stood in the dark mews at the back of Grafton Lodge and looked at the back of the hotel for the window of his room and duly found it: dark, the curtains half-drawn as he had left them that morning for his interview at Imperial College. What world was that, he thought? Everything was still in order, nothing out of the ordinary, at all. He was a fool to be acting so suspic—

‘Adam Kindred?’

Later, Adam found it hard to explain to himself why he had reacted so violently to hearing his name. Perhaps he was more traumatised than he thought; perhaps the levels of recent stress he had been experiencing had made him a creature of reflex rather than ratiocination. In the event, on hearing this man’s voice so close, uttering his name, he had gripped the handle of his new, solid briefcase and had swung it in a backhanded arc, full force, behind him. The immediate, unseen impact had jarred his entire arm and shoulder. The man made a noise halfway between a sigh and a moan and Adam heard him fall to the ground with a thud and a clatter.

Adam swivelled round–he now felt a surge of absurd concern: Jesus Christ, what had he done?–and he crouched by the man’s semi-conscious body. The man was moving–just–and blood was flowing from his mouth and nose. The right-angled, heavy brass trim at the bottom corner of Adam’s briefcase had connected with the man’s right temple and in the dim glow of the mews’ streetlighting he could see a clear, red, L-shaped welt already forming there as if placed by a branding iron. The man groaned and stirred and his hands stretched out as if reaching for something. Adam, following the gesture, saw he was trying to take hold of an automatic pistol (with silencer, he realised, a milli-second later) lying on the cobbles beside him.

Adam stood, fear and alarm now replacing his guilty concern, and then, almost immediately, he heard the approaching yips and yelps of a police car’s siren. But this man, he knew, lying at his feet, was no policeman. The police, as far as he was aware, didn’t issue automatic pistols with silencers to their plain-clothes officers. He tried to stay calm as the logical thought processes made themselves plain–somebody else was also after him, now: this man had been sent to find and kill him. Adam felt a bolus of nausea rise in his throat. He was experiencing pure fear, he realised, like an animal, like a trapped animal. He looked down to see that the man had groggily hauled himself up into a sitting position and was managing to hold himself upright there, swaying uncertainly like a baby, before he spat out a tooth. Adam kicked his gun away, sending it sliding and clattering across the cobbled roadway of the mews and stepped back a few paces. This man wasn’t a policeman but the real police were coming closer–he could hear another siren some streets away in clamorous dissonance with the first. The man was now beginning to crawl erratically across the cobbles towards his gun. All right: this man was looking for him and so were the police–he heard the first car stop outside the hotel and the urgent slam of doors–the night had clearly gone wrong in ways even he couldn’t imagine. He looked round to see that the crawling man had nearly reached his gun and was stretching out an uncertain hand to grab it, as if his vision was defective in some crucial way and he could barely focus. The man keeled over and laboriously righted himself. Adam knew he had to make a decision now, in the next second or two, and with that knowledge came the unwelcome realisation that it would probably be one of the most important decisions of his life. Should he surrender himself to the police–or not? But some unspecified fear in him screamed–NO! NO! RUN! And he knew that his life was about to take a turning he could never reverse–he couldn’t surrender himself, now, he wouldn’t surrender himself: he needed some time. He was terrified, he realised, of how bad circumstances looked for him, terrified of what complicated, disastrous trouble the baleful, awful implications of the story he would tell–the true story–would land him in. So, time was key, time was his only possible friend and ally at this moment. If he had a little time then things could be sorted out in an orderly way. So he made his decision, one of the most important decisions in his life. It wasn’t a question of whether he had chosen the right course of action or the wrong one. He simply had to follow his instincts–he had to be true to himself. He turned and ran away, at a steady pace, up the mews and into the anonymous streets of Pimlico.

What drew him back to Chelsea, he wondered? Was it the fig tree and his momentary dream of expensive riverside apartments that made him think that this attenuated triangle of waste ground by Chelsea Bridge would provide him with safe haven for twenty-four hours until this crazy night was over? He waited until there were no visible cars on the Embankment and climbed swiftly over the spear-railings and into the triangle. He pushed through the bushes and shrubs away from the bridge and its swooping beads of light outlining its suspension cables. He found a patch of ground between three dense bushes and spread his raincoat flat. He sat on it for a while, arms hugging his knees, emptying his mind, and feeling an irresistible urge to sleep grow through him. He switched off his mobile and lay down, resting his head on his briefcase for a pillow and folded his arms around himself. He didn’t think, for once, didn’t try to analyse and understand, simply letting the images of his day and night flash through his head like a demented slide show. Rest, his body was saying, you’re safe, you’ve bought yourself some precious time, but now you need rest–stop thinking. So he did and he fell asleep.


RITA NASHE WAS TRYING to explain to Vikram why she so hated cricket, why cricket in any form, ancient or contemporary, was anathema to her, when the call came through. They were parked just off the King’s Road round the corner from a Starbucks where they had managed to grab a couple of coffees before it closed. Rita acknowledged the call–they were on their way to a ‘cocktail party’ in Anne Boleyn House, Sloane Avenue. She jotted down the details in her notebook, then started the car.

‘Cocktail party,’ she said to Vikram.


‘Domestic. That’s what we call them in Chelsea.’

‘Cool. I’ll remember that: cocktail party.’

She drove easily to Sloane

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What people think about Ordinary Thunderstorms

60 ratings / 49 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (3/5)
    There were some good moments, but this is not one of Boyd's best. This comment does not mean that I won't continue to read him. I will.
  • (3/5)
    Climatologist Adam Kindred arrives in London from America for a job interview from after a sexual indiscretion has ruined his marriage and his academic career there. Dining alone in a Chelsea restaurant, he strikes up a conversation with fellow lone diner Philip Wang. When Wang, an immunologist, leaves the restaurant he also leaves a sheaf of papers behind. Adam, attempts to return the papers to his new acquaintance's flat only to find him with a knife sticking out of his side. Kindred subsequently does two incredibly stupid things: he removes the knife, hastening Wang's death and ensuring that his fingerprints are on the murder weapon, and then after hearing noises in the flat going on the run. Pursued by Wang's killer and the police he decides to shun the trappings of society and go underground living as a vagrant. Once there Kindred's intelligence and self-preservation instincts means that he is gradually able to construct some semblance of civilised life. Thus the novel begins as a thriller with an innocent man mistaken for a murderer who finds himself caught up in the murky world of major pharmaceuticals and drug patenting. However, it soon becomes apparent that identity and self worth are also important factors in this book.This idea seems to affect the author as much as the characters because I felt that Boyd struggled to decide what sort of book he actually wanted to write. Set along the banks of the Thames the action seems to meander along rather than rapidly flow downstream as you would expect in an out and out thriller. The twists and turns of the plot feel forced rather than free flowing. The chapters generally alternate between Kindred and Jonjo Case, the real murderer, as they take part in in a cat and mouse chase but are on occasions interwoven with the stories of a few minor characters, ranging from a semi-literate prostitute struggling to survive as a single parent living on a London sink estate, a charlatan preacher who provides free meals to those willing to listen to his sermons, a policewoman (who also adds the love interest of this novel) who lives with her father on a house boat, and the fat cat owners of a large pharmaceutical company. These sub-plots rather suggest that the author wanted to write a critique on London life, the differences between the disparate social classes but this idea is hinted at rather than fully developed. This is a real shame because I believe that Boyd had a real opportunity to shine a light on the murky, lawless, subculture of a London sink estate and the alienation felt by those who feel on the outside of society not to mention their desire to survive no matter what obstacles life puts in front of them. Consequently Kindred's own character comes across as lacking any real depth. This books therefore seems to fall between two very differing genres but that all said and done it is well written making this an enjoyable piece of escapism. I simply feel that it was a missed opportunity and could have been so much better. I have the author's A Good Man in Africa and Armadillo in my possession so look forward to reading them at some point.
  • (4/5)
    This is a story about falling from grace. What happens when all money, safety, power are stripped away overnight, by mistake. How do people survive? To what lengths will they go? How does one build a new identity and a new life. All of these questions are addressed in the midst of a murder/suspense novel. Well done, William Boyd, well done!
  • (3/5)
    There are some novels I read as a substitute for TV and for pure entertainment value. These include mysteries and some science-fiction. Ordinary Thunderstorms does not fit into either of these genres, but it is a novel to be read for pure entertainment value. It's not great literature, there are no deep revelations, no grand ideas, but it is well-written, highly readable and has an engaging story. It sucked me in, immersed me in its world for a while, and then let me off, not a better or more informed person, but a satisfied reader.The story begins as Adam, a climatology scientist, has just completed a job interview which he believes has gone extremely well. To celebrate, he treats himself to dinner at an Italian restaurant in Chelsea. In the restaurant he exchanges pleasantries with another solo diner, during which he learns that the other man is also a research scientist. After the other man leaves, Adam notices that he left some papers behind, and Adam decides to return them (he had been given the man's phone number). This was a big mistake, and Adam soon finds himself on the run from both the police, who want to charge him with murder, and from a hulking giant who wants to kill him. Adam goes underground, and must learn to leave without cash, credit cards, housing and readily available food. The story of Adam's survival on the streets as a homeless person is interesting enough, but at the same time Adam also must make sense of what has happened to him. This all makes the book a page turner.There is a small plot point at the end of the book that I was really annoyed by, so I was thinking of taking 1/2 star off, but since this didn't affect my enjoyment of the book until the very end I'm leaving my rating at 3 stars.
  • (4/5)
    Ordinary thunderstorms can sometimes turn into violent and destructive super-cell storms. William Boyd runs with this metaphor in "Ordinary Thunderstorms," his thinking-man's thriller from 2010.Adam Kindred, a climatologist in London for a job interview, has a casual restaurant conversation with another scientist, a drug researcher. When Philip Wang departs he leaves behind a file, which Adam finds. It has Wang's address and phone number on it, so Adams calls him and offers to drop the file off at his place. This minor inconvenience is the ordinary thunderstorm.When he arrives at the flat he finds the door open and Wang with a knife in his chest. He pulls out the knife, Wang dies and just like that Adam finds himself the chief suspect in a murder case, his fingerprints on the murder weapon and his name on the visitor register. But this is now a super-cell thunderstorm, and Adam's even greater danger is that Wang's killer, an ex-soldier called Jonjo, is hiding in the flat and, because of that file, wants to kill Adam, too.Boyd keeps up the tension in the novel's first few pages, but after that those who make a steady diet of thrillers, with their constant action and murders every other chapter, may get bored with "Ordinary Thunderstorms," for the center of this storm is prolonged lull, though hardly an uninteresting one for more discerning readers. The author takes us into the London underground, not the subway system but rather the shadowy world into which countless people disappear each year.Adam finds it amazingly easy to disappear from view, even in a city that has cameras everywhere. He supports himself by begging in the street, avoids using his real name or his credit cards, grows a beard and, for a time, sleeps outside. Gradually he forms a new identity, gets a job as a hospital porter and begins to probe the mystery of what got Philip Wang murdered.Some of this may strain belief, as when Adam starts dating a police officer and she falls in love with him without bothering to probe his past even a little bit. Still it is fascinating stuff. The novel ends with the suggestion that, while this particular storm may be over, another one may be just over the horizon.
  • (3/5)
    This is the latest in Boyd’s apparent taking up of genre fiction. Okay, An Ice-cream War was a historical novel as were The New Confessions and Any Human Heart but he is not generally considered a writer of genre. Yet having most recently tackled the spy novel in Restless, he now ventures into thriller territory. (I doubt he’ll be trying SF though.)Returning a briefcase left at a restaurant where he was eating to a man with whom he had struck up a conversation, Adam Kindred stumbles into a murder scene. The victim is still barely alive and asks Adam to remove the knife from his body. Disoriented, Adam does so and the victim promptly dies. Suspecting the murderer is in the next room, Adam flees with the briefcase and thus becomes the prime suspect. So far, so very The Thirty Nine Steps. What follows deviates from that template but is still pretty much a standard thriller where Adam sleeps rough, takes up begging, attends the Church of John Christ, changes his name, links up with a prostitute and her son, then later with the policewoman who was first on the murder scene! - all the while pursued by the murderer at the behest of a big pharmaceutical company with a secret to hide. The secret is of course in the briefcase. Put like that this sounds ridiculous. Not very literary is it? Admittedly the novel doesn’t touch the heights of earlier Boyd offerings like Brazzaville Beach, Any Human Heart or even Restless but it is very readable, rollicking along at a fine pace - and the characterisation is good. It is also a signal reminder of how easy it can be to stay lost in modern society. Use no banks, mobile phones nor credit cards and you are virtually invisible; certainly hard to trace. Whether the novel much enlightens the human condition is something different, though.The story is told from the viewpoints of several of the characters and Boyd does that mainstream thing of giving their histories. I know it’s supposed to add to roundness and provide motivation but it struck me that really - especially if this knowledge is essential to the plot - it’s just another species of information dumping.Inevitably with multiple viewpoints some of the narrators are less engaging than others. I was at first irritated by that of the chairman of the research company Calenture-Deutz but it is a sign of Boyd’s skill that he is able to elicit sympathy and even compassion towards him.The writing appears effortless, very little jars (but see below) and the stupidity of Adam Kindred at the start apart - don’t touch the knife! - is psychologically convincing. If you like thrillers with a bit of character meat to them give it a try.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    A clever well observed abd beautifully written page turner with lots of twists and turns - definitely best novel read this year
  • (1/5)
    I picked this book up randomly at the library when I went to check out some more Calvino, so I had no expectations, really, other than what one usually expects out of a rather trashy mystery thriller novel. I was really disappointed when it was even worse than that! I didn't finish this book - the protagonist makes every wrong move, with flawed and just bad logic behind it. The characters were flat, vulgarity and gore were thrown in gratuitously and just ruined the fast paced flow of a mystery novel. I'm one to give trashy crime novels a chance when I don't want to read anything overly challenging, but this was a complete disappointment.
  • (4/5)
    It is a thrilling and breathtaking fast-paced story. The language is absolutely brilliant. It shows how the life of a young man was turned upside down. Getting back a worth living life he has to solve a murder. He isn't helping the police which are hunting him, quit the contray he is playing a pharmaceutic group off against a bounty hunter. In the end he is getting a new life back. Probably a better one?
  • (5/5)
    This reminded me of lots of different authors, none of which was William Boyd. It has a different feel to his other work – shorter chapters, less reliance on the public school/Scotland/Africa connection, and more commercial and gritty. It reads a bit like Ben Elton, Jeffrey Archer, Dean Koontz and Irvine Welsh all whizzed up in a blender and then strained through one of James Patterson’s socks. But like pretty much all of Boyd’s novels, I loved it – a fast read that gets down to business straight away, with plenty of twists and turns to keep you interested. The story features a fascinating range of characters, with the right balance of light and shade about them, and some well imagined scenarios – I particularly liked the Church of John Christ, and the character Jeff Nashe – ‘a kind of virtual revolutionary until he fell down the stairs’ – surely one of the best throwaway lines I’ve read in years.I suspect the crime side of the plot will be too simplistic for fans of that specific genre, and some difficulties did seem to be overcome a bit too easily but all in all it was intrigue on a level I could understand, and a story that, despite the dark places it visits, leaves the reader with a feeling of hope and admiration for the characters’ resilience.
  • (4/5)
    A thriller based in London, I didn't enjoy is as much as Restless but a page turner.
  • (3/5)
    I had been slightly disappointed by the last William Boyd novel I read, 'Any Human Heart', largely because of its lack of focus and its sprawling nature. I expected this one, in the thriller genre, to be much tighter, and it was, though Boyd still manages to cram a lot of characters in (rather too many - a few are mere caricatures) and takes us on quite a journey round London, from corporate jungle to sink estates, with the river literally and metaphorically at the heart of the story.The basic plot and devices borrow heavily from both John Buchan ('The 39 Steps') and Alfred Hitchcock ('North by North West') in that an innocent man finds himself suspected of murder and tries to evade capture from both the police and the real culprits, who have their own reasons for wanting to kill him. The hero, Adam Kindred, manages to make himself anonymous by throwing away all the trappings of modern life and identity - mobile phone, credit cards, an address. His stratagems for evasion, and the adventures and relationships that come along in the pursuit of some kind of freedom are the most interesting parts of the book. The actual 'crime' elements, while engaging, are built on such absurd premises that you have to stop yourself constantly asking, 'but why would they do that?', 'why does he make that choice?' 'why didn't the police just...?' If you don't ask, it's because you are swept along by the action and by the empathy Boyd makes you feel for Adam. On the basis that the book is a page turner, and on the whole elegantly written, I am giving it a three-star rating, but to be honest I could equally have given it a scathing review, and gone into detail about its inadequacies, its implausibilties, and its occasional lapses into cliche. Maybe I expected more because of Boyd's reputation and because I have enjoyed some of his work in the past - 'Brazzaville Beach' for example. He is a frustrating writer. Somewhere there is a great book in him. This certainly isn't it, but at its best it's 'a good read'.
  • (1/5)
    I've given this 1 star as I did make it to the end without too much effort, but in reality this was an incredible poor book. I don't know anything about William Boyd, but for some reason I thought he was a vaguely well respected author. Maybe he his, but this was one of the most stupid books I've ever read. Normally I avoid spoilers, and don't talk plots, but there is nothing to spoil here. Adam Kindred is an academic who accidentally disturbs a murder scene, so it looks like he did it. What does he do? Go and hide under a bush in Chelsea for weeks on end. Impossible to believe. The story wanders about a bit as he lives as a homeless man, has sex with a prostitute without a condom, and generally acts like an idiot. Meanwhile the other part of the plot features a head of a big Pharma company who's main feature seems to be that he doesn't wear underpants (I'm not making this up). Later on, just as things are resolving, Kindred murders someone else - a homeless man that was annoying him. But it doesn't matter, because, you know, its just a homeless man. He's still our hero. Boyd seems to get bored of it, and the book just kinds of stutters to a halt - loose ends all over the place. Probably the worst book that I've ever made it to the end of.
  • (2/5)
    The Short of It:Ordinary Thunderstorms is anything but ordinary, yet it wasn’t at all what I expected it to be. I guess you could say that it caught me completely off-guard.The Rest of It:Adam Kindred is at the wrong place, at the wrong time and stupidly removes a knife from the side of a dying man. In a panic, he flees and takes to the streets to become a transient, begging for change. As the story unfolds, all of the complexities of what’s happened and what he’s done comes to a head. He’s lost everything and yet, he doesn’t seem to care. As the story unfolds, and the reasons for what’s happened come to light, he sets out to flush out the bad guys.When this book came out in hardback, I added it to my to-read list because I had read an article where Stephen King said it was one of the best books he’s ever come across. I was intrigued by this for many reasons. First off, I adore King’s writing. Second, King’s opinion of what’s good can only be interesting, right? Well, I can’t speak for King, but what fascinates me about Ordinary Thunderstorms is Adam’s innate ability to adapt to the situation. In a split second he decides to give up the life he’s known with very little remorse. Stripped of his worldly possessions, he makes do with the basics and remarkably, seems happy…not at all devastated at what he’s lost. This aspect of the story intrigued me.As a transient, he meets various people who unknowingly assist him in his desire to remain invisible. Mhouse, a prostitute with whom he lives for a very short while, her son, Ly-on, whom Adam takes a deep liking to, and various other folks he comes across including a Marine cop whom he ends up sleeping with. But, these encounters are brief and although they exist to prove that there is another side to Adam, the side that comes to the surface is not one that I particularly liked.In the midst of all of this running, Boyd uses his novel to make a statement about big pharmaceuticals and the effect that they have upon society as a whole and Adam is right smack in the middle of it.I thought this novel would be suspenseful and that Adam would come full circle in his discovery of who he is, but I’m not sure he ever figures that out and although parts of it were suspenseful and fast paced, much of it left a sour taste in my mouth. Had Boyd focused on one aspect of the novel, I think it would have had a bigger impact on me, but instead he dabbles in a little bit of everything in his attempt to cover it all which leaves some things underexplored.As a suspense tale, there isn’t any big pay-off. There is, but there isn’t. Meaning, it’s not as satisfying as it should be and as an internal look at the human psyche, well, that’s less than satisfying too. Ordinary Thunderstorms is a message cushioned between the pages of what could have been a great, suspenseful read, but instead ends up being just the shell of what could have been.
  • (3/5)
    I decided to make this my second Boyd novel partly because I really enjoyed the first (Restless) and partly because this one seems to polarize people into two camps; liked it and hated it. I didn’t see many reviews claiming to love it though, so maybe I was better forewarned than I thought. Although I did find it interesting and finished it without too much effort, it lacks focus and has a lot of people doing stupid things. Maybe it’s in the water, but no one seemed to act rationally. Maybe that’s the experimental piece of what Boyd seemed to be doing with this book; to write a thriller full of people doing the unexpected. Sort of an anti-thriller; the thriller that didn’t thrill. Not only does Adam do dumb stuff, but so does the supporting cast; Rita, Ingram and Jonjo. Each in their own ways of course, but their actions don’t follow what we’ve come to think of as normal for this type of book. Does it succeed? I don’t know. As a meandering story of what if, yes it does. What if a guy stumbled into a murder and became the chief suspect, would he run far away or hide in a vacant piece of land a few miles from the kill site and become a bum? Would a by-the-book cop jump into a relationship with a man far below her social station who appears to have been dropped into his current life straight from the moon? Would a killer-for-hire hold such a grudge against a person who doesn’t matter anymore? Would a powerful corporate executive spend so much time deciding what to drink, whether or not to wear underwear and with hookers instead of controlling his company, employees and board members? It’s as if Boyd made a bet with someone that he couldn’t sell a book with people making such weird decisions. I guess the joke’s on us.That said, I didn’t hate it. I actually enjoyed Adam’s moral flaying. I enjoyed seeing how low he could go, from taking advantage of a relatively stupid single mother, adopting another person’s newly acquired persona, to stealing a blind man’s cane and pretending to be blind, to murdering his blackmailer. Maybe those last two should be in reverse order. Even as Adam acknowledges the slimy, lowness of his deeds he goes through with each of them without a qualm. Like the sexual encounter that ended his marriage, he seems to do these things accidentally on-purpose and it spoke to my inner voyeur.The tracks involving the other characters were less interesting. Rita being the least among them. I never really ‘got’ her. She seemed like a bimbo add on, but those aren’t popular so was changed into a career girl and a cop. Ah that will make the PC Police back down. Eh. Then Jonjo (what a name, btw…Jonjo…really? I’m supposed to be scared of him?) just seemed cobbled together out of what a professional thug is supposed to be. The dog was an interesting touch, but seemed quirky for quirkiness’s sake. Ingram was the biggest oddity of them all; a CEO with no balls, power, drive or ego. He wasn’t a type A at all and to be the head of a biggish company like he was, you have to have those. I did like Mhouse though in a strange way, and was sad at her ending. The way Boyd moved them all around each other was good; I liked the serendipity of a lot of it. But as characters they left me sort of disconnected. I will read others from Boyd though.
  • (4/5)
    As I started reading this book, I knew it: I discovered another talented writer. "John Grisham" format, but much richer style. An excellent thriller. If at all I have anything negative to say, it would be that at times (only at times) it seemed a bit too easy for the protagonist to avoid his pursuers, but then how true it is: if you don't have any paper trail - how easy it is to just "vanish"... Also, the police woman Rita's character promised more depth at the beginning, but turned out a bit superficial as the story progressed; still, she wasn't the main character, after all. But that put aside, a quite worthy read.
  • (4/5)
    Another highly readable William Boyd novel, albeit not as as original or convincing as other things he's written. The subject - a falsely accused murder suspect fleeing injustice in London - is a little more mainstream than other Boyd works, but in plotting, character development and general description this remains well above that of your average book. But my gripe about this novel is the ending: what happened? Essentially, when it feels like there should be a few more chapters describing how events unfolded, there is just a brief, unsatisfactory summary chapter. Did Boyd suddenly decide he couldn't be bothered to finish the book?
  • (4/5)
    William Boyd is such an accomplished writer that when he decides to write a thriller , it is a very exciting read. The bad guys are sinister but occasionally quite humourous and the plot is tight . I thought I had it figured but was delighted to be wrong.Highly recommended.
  • (4/5)
    I normally shy away from British novels as too, well, British. This one reads like an American thriller.
  • (3/5)
    I think this was the first book I bought to read on Kindle for iPad. I didn't enjoy it that much. Like the reading experience, but not the book. Although I don't like not being able to read my book because my daughter is playing with my iPad... Need a dedicated reading device... maybe...
  • (5/5)
    This is a book about identity. It is a grand story; better than Boyd's more recent 'Waiting For Sunrise' because it carries a more cohesive and engaging idea, that of surface verses deep character and the circumstances needed to force deep character to the surface. A tough killer is reduced to a weeping child, outwitted by a homeless climatologist. It is a little irksome that the winners here tend to be the middle class but that is a minor middle-class quibble in itself. Another bonus, reading this book, is seeing all the plot lines dance out, spiral and engage again.
  • (4/5)
    Boyd is a favorite and this one is an exciting _Wrong Man_-like thriller set in London. A large pharmaceutical company is the lurking malevolence chasing our leading man along with the police. The Thames River and some of London’s darker denizens add verisimilitude to this adventure that is set off by a random chance encounter. Who are we (and what do we become) when we are forced give up modern life’s high-tech luxuries and live off the grid? Cinematic to the max and yet thought provoking.
  • (3/5)
    I would not normally read a book like this but it was set by my reading group. William Boyd is not a favourite of mine. His writing style annoys me. I did find the book intriguing and kept on reading to find out what happened. The plot was very contrived and the "crooks" among the characters very stereotyped.
  • (2/5)
    Barely managed to finish - slow and stretched out. Also seems improbable, but that could be just me: wouldn't be running if I had nothing to do with the crime.
  • (4/5)
    This is a fast-paced action novel with an sympathetic but only somewhat believable young protagonist, Adam Kindred. Kindred ends up a victim of circumstance implicated in a homicide while in London, and finds himself on the run from the law. Taking a tour through homelessness, a cast of characters emerges including a former military operative, a prostitute, a marine policewoman, and pharmaceuticals executives. Most all of them are trying to find Kindred to be the first to catch him and kill him.The first chapter or two are off-putting and cliche, and a reader needs to stick with it to see the beauty of the book. The pace speeds up, the mysteries begin, Kindred becomes more believable and three dimensional. The ending is somewhat surprising, and at points the book is heart wrenching. This is a fulfilling action thriller that consistently increases in momentum until the pages are turning themselves.
  • (3/5)
    Not one of Boyd's best books but still very readable and interesting. The story line is implausable at the beginning, but the book is definitely still worthwhile carrying on with. Some really good character developments. Much lighter in content than his earlier works.
  • (4/5)
    Great book.William Boyd is an incredible story teller. Might not be the most important book of the year, and surely not the best book by this author, but once you have begun, you just cannot stop and cannot wait to get to the end!Highly recommended to anyone, very entertaining.
  • (2/5)
    In Ordinary Thunderstorms, the hero, Adam Kindred, is in London for a job interview. Feeling good about his future, he’s having dinner alone when he strikes up a conversation with a fellow diner. Based on this chance encounter, Adam is soon on the run from the police; the primary suspect in a murder. I'll grant you, I’ve never visited London, attempted to return a forgotten file to a casual acquaintance from a diner, walked into his hotel room through door left ajar and found a dead guy on the bed. Perhaps if these situations occurred to me, I’d be an idiot too. But I’d like to think I’d call the police in the first instance, and leave the damn file at the reception desk in the second. Supposing I was momentarily flummoxed and made all the wrong choices, and now thought I was in deep trouble. I’d still like to think I’d be smart enough to find a lawyer and talk to the police. Adam Kindred was an interesting character, but I didn’t have much patience with his choice to become a homeless bum in London instead of talking to the police. I got the whole "trust no one" thing, I just thought it was contrived and unrealistic.
  • (4/5)
    I loved this book, it was a gripping thriller that kept me hooked almost to the last page. The sense of place is fantastic, it really brought London to life. There are loads of big themes - homelessness, poverty, corporate crime, surveillance society - but these serve the story rather than weigh it down. Having been so absorbed by the story, I did wonder how the various strands would get resolved and found the ending a little limp. But that's a small criticism, I recommend this highly.