Born in the early fifties Chris Carver escapes his Ruislip roots to a place at the LSE where he progresses from student politics to full-blown radical.
Weaving back and forth between London in the late sixties/seventies and small town southern-England early in the twenty-first century we gradually discover why Chris has taken on the identity of Mike Frame (using the classic method outlined in Frederick Forysth's Day of the Jackal) and settled into a comfortable but tenuous middle-class existence.
The further back in time events and characters are, the more vivid and engrossing they are. The present day proceedings seem very flat and less engaging. This may be deliberate – the narrative is presented as the recollections of a man whose 50th birthday has arrived, and often sections begin in the present and travel backwards as memories are sparked.
These recollections are brilliantly constructed and the writing is wonderful, but there are too many holes in the plot and the core incident, on which so much of the action rests, turns out to be a complete anti-climax. Also the central character Miles doesn't ring true and the sub-plot about smearing a New Labour MP with ambitions for the position of Home Secretary seems plausible, but the details don't add up.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed this a lot, in fact an awful lot, but it is a pretty flawed novel. And just look at the cover. The mass-market paperback is very different – always a sure sign that the original design didn't hit the mark.