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No Good Deed

av John Niven

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921,548,857 (4.33)Ingen/inga
The long-awaited new novel by John Niven, bestselling author of Kill Your Friendsand Straight White Male. What do you do when the homeless man on the street you've just given money to thanks you by name and turns out to be one of your 'closest' friends, one you haven't seen for over twenty years? Take him for a hot meal and see him on his way? Give him a lot more money than you usually would? Or take him in and try to get him back on his feet? For Alan, there's no question - only natural that he'd want to see his old mate Craig off the streets, even if only for a few nights, and into some clean clothes. But what if the successful life you've made for yourself - good job, happy marriage, lovely kids, grand Victorian house (you did well out of the property boom, thank you very much) - is one that that your old pal would quite like to have too? Even if it means taking it from you? Gradually, inevitably, mayhem ensues as Craig turns Alan's orderly household upside down, threatening to wreck Alan's life for good. Following the divergent lives of two childhood friends, No Good Deedis a funny and painful examination of friendship; of the strange currents of ambition, loathing, pity and affection that flow between people over the decades; and of men getting older as they fail and succeed.… (mer)

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No Good Deed has the perfect elevator pitch: Alan, a successful, affluent journalist with a happy family life, stops to give some money to a homeless man one night on the way to his club in Soho. The man turns out to be his old school friend, Craig. Alan feels obliged to help him and takes him home. But Craig, far from being grateful, proceeds to take over Alan’s life…

Too often these high-concept stories are peopled by flat characters and hackneyed plots, but in this case the novel does live up to its promise. Alan’s milieu – a kind of Notting Hill set without the (overt) politics, peopled by columnists and aristos and minor celebs, fuelled by nepotism and booze and lots of lots of money, is richly and satirically drawn.

Alan is an interesting character, an outsider from a council house in Scotland who has somehow found himself married to the daughter of a duke. He is both insider and outsider on his world, comfortable in it but painfully aware of its privilege and absurdities, which are heightened when he sees it through Craig’s eyes.

There are some funny set pieces in this novel (and plenty on the protagonist’s complex relationship with his bowels, surely an under-explored area in contemporary fiction) but what marks it out for me is its study of friendship. Alan was the not-quite-cool kid in his crowd, while Craig was the leader. Craig went on to be a rock star while Alan was a struggling reporter until his wife’s connections got him a decent job.

No Good Deed explores the darker side of friendship, the way the dynamics of your teenage years, at that age when friends mean more than family or bands or even sex, can influence you as you go through life. The plot wraps up neatly, as you’d expect from such a deftly plotted novel, but it also leaves you room to think about why the characters behaved the way they did, which makes it a thought-provoking as well an entertaining read.
*
I received a copy of No Good Deed from the publisher via Netgalley. ( )
  KateVane | Jul 15, 2017 |
Great fun. Nice satire. ( )
  adrianburke | Jul 8, 2017 |
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The long-awaited new novel by John Niven, bestselling author of Kill Your Friendsand Straight White Male. What do you do when the homeless man on the street you've just given money to thanks you by name and turns out to be one of your 'closest' friends, one you haven't seen for over twenty years? Take him for a hot meal and see him on his way? Give him a lot more money than you usually would? Or take him in and try to get him back on his feet? For Alan, there's no question - only natural that he'd want to see his old mate Craig off the streets, even if only for a few nights, and into some clean clothes. But what if the successful life you've made for yourself - good job, happy marriage, lovely kids, grand Victorian house (you did well out of the property boom, thank you very much) - is one that that your old pal would quite like to have too? Even if it means taking it from you? Gradually, inevitably, mayhem ensues as Craig turns Alan's orderly household upside down, threatening to wreck Alan's life for good. Following the divergent lives of two childhood friends, No Good Deedis a funny and painful examination of friendship; of the strange currents of ambition, loathing, pity and affection that flow between people over the decades; and of men getting older as they fail and succeed.

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