In M J Hyland’s third novel, we shadow the troubled psyche of Patrick Oxtoby. It isn’t a good place to be. Agitation and a pervasive resentment continually burst through, provoked by nothing more startling than a fly buzzing past the telly: ‘They take up so much of everything, they take the air out of the room, with their noise and the beating of their fat bodies all over the walls and sucking on your skin.’ Other people find Patrick too contained and watchful, too reserved or timid, but we see and feel with him. It isn’t a comfortable feeling.
Patrick, a young mechanic whose fiancée has just ended their engagement, has come to an unnamed English seaside town, at an unspecified time. There are no mobiles and computers: Patrick’s frustration is often heightened by fumbling at phone boxes, having to receive calls which might be overheard in