The novel is told through three separate narrative threads: 1) John Hathaway recounting his disturbed childhood in Southcotes. 2) John's later discussions with his psychiatrist Dr Widney. 3) John's return to Southcotes to investigate a series of drownings that began with the death of his mother when he was a boy. This intermingling of story strands takes some getting used to but once you settle into the rhythm of the novel the rewards are insurmountable.
Grant is a generous story-teller and there is so much packed into these pages: a murder mystery, a child struggling with OCD, reality distortion, an unlikely romance between two lost souls and reams of existential debate all set against the backdrop of a timeless British seaside town.
This might sound like heavy, inaccessible material but thanks to Grant's writing style, this is all digestible, endlessly readable and - against all odds - often quite funny. The prose is peppered with plenty of pop culture references, including movie quotes, Pac-Man, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon and even gents' urinal etiquette, all of which ensure the philosophy and mathematical discussion remains light and engaging.
Grant's penchant for snappy dialogue takes on new heights. John's conversations with both Dr Widney and his love interest Lolly Quayle are immersive, hilarious, thought-provoking pieces of writing. Academy Awards have be given for lesser dialogue.
Huge segments of The Make-Your-Own-Adventure book The Palace of Tsui Pen are included throughout the novel. This is a curveball which is confusing at first. However, its inclusion makes more and more sense as the novel progresses. I heavily suggest you read the novel start to finish, rather than getting side-tracked in playing the Make-Your-Own-Adventure game yourself. As the opening note explains, "the sections have been arranged to create a meaningful narrative of sorts" and this is indeed true. Its inclusion is akin to a DVD Easter Egg: it adds value to the main purchase but should not detract from the main story.
At £2.22, this is surely one of the best bargains on Amazon.