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ORDINARY THUNDERSTORMS by William Boyd: Book Review

Reinventing oneself is not an easy thing to do. It’s not easy to leave behind your friends, family, home, and career and start over again.  But sometimes it has to be done.

Adam Kindred has just gone through what he believes is the most difficult time in his life. But it’s about to get worse, much worse.

A brilliant climatologist at an American university who has just invented a revolutionary cloud chamber that might aid drought-stricken countries, he has a one-night stand with a graduate student that wrecks his marriage and his career.  Unhappy and ashamed, he leaves the United States for England, the country of his birth, and has a job interview at an English college that he feels has gone very well.

He stops for a quick dinner at an Italian restaurant and is seated near another solitary diner.  They exchange some casual words and the other man leaves.  A few minutes later, as Kindred gets up to go, he sees that the other man left a transparent folder behind, filled with papers.

On the front of the folder is a business card with the man’s name and two addresses–one is obviously his office, so the other must be his home.  On the spur of the moment Kindred decides he’ll deliver the folder to the man’s home.   If  only he had  brought it to the man’s office instead, how differently things would have turned out.

When he arrives at the building and goes to the apartment, he’s surprised to find the door open.  Getting no response to his greeting, Kindred walks into the apartment and finds the man, a Dr. Wang, on his bed, bleeding from a knife wound.  The place has been trashed, obviously searched, with cabinet drawers open and clothes strewn all around.

Kindred wants to call the emergency services number, but Wang tells him to pull out the knife.  Kindred does so, and Wang dies.  As the frightened Kindred leaves the bedroom to find a phone, he hears the door from the balcony into the bedroom open–someone is there, and it’s a good bet it’s the murderer.  Kindred flees the building, but he’s all too aware that his signature is on the guest book he had to sign to enter the building and his fingerprints are on the knife he dropped in his haste to find a telephone.

The next day, after debating with himself all night long about calling the police and telling them what happened, he glimpses a newspaper headline:  ADAM KINDRED–WANTED. SUSPICION OF MURDER. That’s when Kindred decides he has to reinvent himself, leave his past behind, find the man who killed Dr. Wang, and clear his own name.

There’s a lot of plot in Ordinary Thunderstorms. There’s Adam Kindred’s step-by-step reinvention of himself; there’s the man who has been hired to find Kindred, kill him, and regain the briefcase that belonged to Dr. Wang; there’s the company executive whose firm is about to launch a drug that will cure asthma in children but who is having his own medical and emotional issues; and there’s the attractive policewoman who can’t understand Scotland Yard’s decision to release, without explanation, a man they arrested for gun possession.  This novel will keep you reading and guessing until the end.

William Boyd is the author of more than a dozen books, some mysteries and some not.  You can read more about him at his web site.

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