It’s hard to review a novel by Ned Beauman without calling him a show-off. But the thing about being a show-off is that you can’t be one unless you’re exceptionally good at whatever it is you’re showing off. ‘Show-off’ is really a term of covetous approbation – the compliment that envy pays to achievement. It would be easy to haul Beauman before the bench on charges of what Clive James used to call stunt writing: look at all these elaborate similes, Your Honour! Look at this preposterously convoluted plot! Better, perhaps, to say, with admiration: Beauman is very, very good at what he does.