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Jack Bick is an interview journalist for an upmarket London magazine. He has a good track record, but the magazine seems to be drifting and Jack has the feeling that he's about to be let go. In what he expects to be his last week on the staff, he has two interviews to conduct: Oliver Pierce, a psychogeographical writer who hasn't had a follow-up to his bestselling work some years ago (Jack's idea); and an estate agent/property developer that his editor has told him to interview. Given the two options, Jack opts first for lager (the breakfast of champions) and then for Pierce. He and Pierce go off to explore Barking where a large plume of smoke is visible from all over London. 


What follows is a meandering story of alcoholism, the seedy side of London life with dead-end jobs, half-fulfilled ideas and half-built properties. Jack is a whinging and unlikeable man who cadges off other people's goodwill. He is capricious and willing to throw anyone under the bus if there's a drink in it for him. 


Plume is probably supposed to be both humorous and some kind of state of the nation piece. Unfortunately, the lack of plot or character development; the repetitiveness; the lack of any obvious motive behind any of the actions makes for quite a long and dull read. Some marks for ideas, the odd set piece and references to tube trains. Unfortunately, this just don't come together in a workable framework. The end, when it comes, goes off in a surreal direction that confuses more than it intrigues. 


This is a shame, because Care of Wooden Floors was a superb, focused, funny novel that was well paced and spoke to this reader about the human condition. Plume doesn't. 



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