Under the Influence

Charles Spencer

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29 January 2015
0 pages

For Will Benson, life cannot get much worse. Cuckolded, overweight, and in career meltdown he is at his lowest ebb. Attempting to concentrate on his column in the shambolic trade rag, Theatre World, through a fog of lunchtime drinking he recalls wistfully his halcyon days as a cub reporter when life was all so different. Baccanalian romps in the countryside, illicit trysts, shared secrets; the world was his for the taking.

But when then past comes knocking at Will's door, the reality is suddenly far removed from his memories. His old friend Nicholas is dying, and Henry - Will's youthful hero - has stolen a valuable Vermeer painting and is on the run. Impelled to track Henry down, Will reluctantly takes up the trail. But Henry has always been a slippery customer and along the way Will must endure an Oxford Gaudy, a bizarre heavy metal gig and the worst dentist in the world before the full extent of Henry's Machiavellian plans are revealed . . .

Spencer pulls off the most shocking and unexpected denouement of any crime novel that I have read in years.

Daily Telegraph

Funny, cunning, nostalgic . . . don't miss

Literary Review

A light comedy thriller, with plenty of good one-liners and some ingenious set-pieces, it is also a lament for lost innocence; and it is the undercurrent of melancholy which gives the novel its distinctive timbre. There is real human sadness here, but also the possibility of healing and redemption . . . the tenderness which exists between people who become friends at a tender age, beautifully captured by Spencer, is the abiding memory of the book.

Sunday Telegraph