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This book starts with an impact... a man is found hanged, this event turns Lorimer Blacks life upside down. Lorimer Black is the key character in this book, he works in insurance as a loss adjuster, he collects antique helmets and is taking part in sleep disorder research. These bare facts about his life hide much deeper themes regarding the human condition. He like us all is looking for safety and security. In our modern society we have found ways to achieve the feeling of security - we have insurance to protect us from lifes misfortunes, we have armour and weapons and we have our money and our status. Lorimer has a sleep disorder and as the novel progresses and his life is thrown into further confusion the distinction between reality and sleep starts to blur at the edges. There is a beautiful and mysterious woman that Lorimer falls for and pursues. It is set in modern London and Boyd skillfully captures the essence of our modern landscape its sadness, violence, indifference, selfishness and beauty. We know little about Lorimer Black and never really get that close to him but through a kind of diary that he writes we are able to bit by bit piece together the jigsaw that makes up his character. This book has a certain black humour to it and it moves at a sedate pace. Its style takes a little getting used to but I feel it is worth it in the end. This book made a refreshing change from the cheap thriller style. I will be reading more William Boyd in the future.
It took me a while to get into this book but I am glad I stuck with it as I was eventually rewarded with a satisfying and enjoyable read. “Armadillo” is a tale of yuppie businessmen, pretentious wine bars and London café society, posh nobs, death, corruption and a dash of black farce. It was not what I would call a compelling read but I was intrigued by it enough, enough to carry on reading at any rate. It begins with Lorrimer Black discovering a business client hanging from the end of a noose. Not a jolly start to a novel but then it’s no really a jolly novel. It peters along at a trot rather than breakneck speed. Lorrimer is a well-to-do young business professional who seems troubled by life even though he has a moderately happy family background and a good career. He falls for a beautiful but mysterious girl who he sees across a swanky London bar and before long becomes involved. Unfortunately for him, other troubles start to catch him up as a result of the hanging. Soon he has become embroiled in a web of deceit and corruption at the heart of his business world that very soon becomes life-threatening. Unfortunately none of the characters really gelled for me. Even Lorrimer only comes across as likeable at best. That aside, the novel is well-paced and plotted with enough twists and turns to keep most readers happy. Judging by the blurbs on the back cover, there are many more distinguished readers who would disagree with me (as well as a previous dooyoo reviewer). Ultimately then for me it was an enjoyable rather than a sensational read. For a taster of William Boyd’s writing style, you could try “On the Yankee Station”, a diverse collection of his readily-accessible short stories.
William Boyd's novel about an insurance loss adjuster doesn't necessarily have enticing subject matter, but his style more than compensates for the fact that you're basically reading about one of the dullest jobs known to mankind. Sure, there's enough double-dealing and gangster activity to keep a Goodfella fan happy, but it's not really what sells it for me. The characters are well drawn and detailed -- the reader imagines that the author knows a lot more about them than he writes about, and it gives the book a well-rounded feel. It may be a little too fin-de-siecle for some tastes, but at least to book looks a little harder at some of the subjects other novels on the same shelf ignore -- morality, integrity and the search for a meaningful life all get a look in, and usually with a wry, sardonic sense of humour. It was the first Boyd book I'd had a go at. I'll definitely be looking the rest up.