Although a fan of Boyd's writing, I was quite pleased to see his latest novel, Restless, was something of a departure from his usual storyline centring on a bumbling Englishman plauged with absurd misfortune, usually in some exotic setting. It's always a test of a good writer to see if they can pull off a story in a different genre to their staple area - and Boyd passes the test.
Restless is a spy thriller, with two strong and interesting central characters, fast paced, well plotted, and with a couple of good, original twists. The story is told in alternating first and third person chapters; the first person narrator being Ruth, a single mother in 1970s Britain; the third person narrative telling the story of Eva, a young woman recruited into the murky world of British spying/propaganda in Europe and America during WWII. The lives of the two overlap in modern times as Eva turns out to be Ruth's mother - now living an apparently ordinary life as an English widow - and has decided the time has come to settle some old scores.
Boyd's writing style is always a pleasure to read, and lends itself surprisingly well to this genre. His attention to detail and ability to make the mundane seem interesting, as well as bringing out the absurdities of life, are ideal for creating atmosphere and setting the scene, and it seemed somehow much more plausible than many spy stories.
The idea of combining the war era with peace times isn't entirely original, but it did work quite well here and brought home the story's central point of how spy work changed the mindset of a person forever.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book and found it very gripping - one of those it's difficult to put down. Maybe not a book that would stay with me forever, but certainly a good read whilst it lasts. I would place Boyd up there along with masters like Le Carre, and would look forward to reading anything else he writes in this genre.