‘In America we don’t give up on people,’ says Dodo Wilmot, a filthy-rich Texan shyster. ‘The system always gives you a second chance.’ Dodo’s dream of a life of many acts is not uniquely American – the English are as susceptible to it as anyone else. Certainly it’s a dream that Gus Cotton would like to share. Gus – the narrator of Ferdinand Mount’s irresistible new novel – is a terminally diffident Whitehall mandarin who gets the sack in Chapter Three. In the gloomy months that follow he falls in with a band of oddballs and helps set up a headhunting company. It’s the go-go years of the late 1990s.