On the surface a light-hearted comedy, but beneath the superficialities lurk darker themes.
Dr Alfred Jones, a fisheries scientist, is low down the pecking order of a civil service office where bullying is the norm. Furthermore, he can no longer avoid the painful truth that his wife cares more about her career and bank balance than she does about him.
When he is instructed to assist in introducing salmon to the Yemen, a scheme which appears doomed to failure, it feels to Fred like one more burden, heavier than most. But as things progress, he learns about faith, overcoming obstacles, and love.
The story is told in a series of emails, diary entries, and interview transcripts. Torday has mastered this deceptively simple method, it adds immediacy, and results in a lightness of touch and to-the-point style reminiscent of (but so much better than) Bridget Jones's diary.
In his protrait of our leaders, the irony tips over into cynicism, (accurately reflecting public opinion I would say). The prime minister is somewhat delusional, neither bright enough nor sufficiently honest with himself to recognise the limits to his power. His director of communications is even worse. No means are too vile to justify the end of furthering his boss's reign.
Although there is a certain flippant tone to the whole book, (the Jihadis are particularly clichéd), Torday's depiction of traditional Arab and Islamic culture is very respectful.
A good summer read, unexpectedly rewarding.