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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

A Novel Of Ideas Squeezed Into The Plot Of A Thriller

The Blasphemer: A Novel - Nigel Farndale

Cutting between the life of a contemporary academic and that of his great grandfather during the First World War The Blasphemer is an ambitious novel. It's themes include courage and cowardice, love and betrayal, evolution and the possibility of the miraculous. It's a novel of ideas squeezed into the plot of a thriller.

The central dilemmas of the book are firstly whether academic Daniel Kennedy can live up to the heroics of his father, grandfather and great grandfather who were active in World Wars One and Two and the Gulf War, and secondly whether or not all three men received supernatural assistance in their hours of need from the same angelic figure.

The details of trench life in the First World War are compelling but the plot is over-engineered and in places the dialogue too obviously serves the author's need to explore the ideas behind the narrative. In addition, the characterisation sometimes feels a bit implausible. In particular, the Iago-like villain, an old-fashioned Catholic academic called Weatherby, is just too diabolical to believe in. Finally, the conclusion, in which Weatherby gets his come-uppance, is altogether too stagey for my liking.