Top positive review
Light and Witty
on 29 February 2016
A light, entertaining novel about crimes in the art world (particularly in how they affect the former Yugoslavia), unlikely friendships and running. Fleur Bonner has lost her perfect job at a New York gallery and come home to London, to work for a pretentious art and antiques dealer and try to sort her life out. A chance meeting with a neighbour leads to her joining a small group of 'Battersea Park runners' keen to run in the London marathon. This motley crew - Ben, the kindly leader, Peter, a very short but very clever barrister, Roz, a kindly registrar looking for love, and Alice, a housewife with a wicked husband - soon find themselves becoming close friends. Which is just as well, because after Fleur's corrupt boss Brinley ends up involving her in a dodgy deal involving an icon, which needs to be delivered in person to a mysterious Serbian in Belgrade, and a fire at Brinley's warehouse follows, Fleur is had up on a charge of at least arson, possibly more. But her friends are determined that she will not go under, and hatch a clever scheme to save her - with the help of Fleur's rock star father.
I bought this book purely because I read an interview with Lucy Hawking and thought she sounded an enormously nice person. It's not in the least profound (as Hawking herself would admit) and some of the plot twists are frankly quite silly - but one can't be reading psychologically intense literature all the time, and as light, witty fiction, this is pretty good. Hawking, for one thing, writes much better English than most popular fiction writers. And while her plot may have silly elements, it's also quite clever, getting in some interesting information of art thefts and war crimes in the former Yugoslavia (where I believe she once worked as a journalist) and on the super-rich (the Russian oligarch Gregor is a particular delight). The group of runners are a loveable crowd (though Roz's relentless cheer and Need For A Man got a bit tiresome on occasion, and I'm not sure how Alice's problems were sorted out so fast), and the court scenes are excellent. The story of Lucy and her dad was rather touching too. After a busy day at work, a couple of hours reading about Fleur's adventures was just what I needed. Very amusing popular fiction. Now I hope at some stage Hawking will have the confidence to write a more serious novel about the former Yugoslavia - I think she certainly could do this very well.