Source: Review Copy
Publication: 16 January 2018 from Unbound
It’s the morning after the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in London. The city is relaxed as rarely before, delighted with itself at how spectacularly it has hosted the uplifting event. The capital, however, will be rudely and brutally awoken from its self-congratulation by a shocking atrocity committed upon innocent Muslims at the London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park. How could it happen? Why did it happen? Is this a terrorist attack? Is it political? Or is it personal? THE OUTER CIRCLE is concerned with the culture of modern Britain. It follows five characters caught up in this tragic event and the aftermath of anxiety and reprisal as the answers dramatically emerge.
I’m not a sporty person, so I didn’t know any of Ian Ridley’s work before I read this novel. It’s not a surprise to me though to find out that he’s a journalist with a number of published sports books. His writing is very good and his knowledge of the world of journalism is excellent.
The Outer Circle in the title has a nicely double edged meaning. It refers to the ring round around Regent’s Park, but can equally as well refer to those who are disenfranchised or alienated in an ever changing, multi-cultural London.
The concept of the book is straightforward and works very well. 5 characters each have a role to play in the aftermath of an horrific atrocity committed against 5 Muslims at the Central Mosque in Regent’s Park. The action span revolves through just one week.
Saul is coming to the end of his treatment for prostate cancer. His daily regime is to walk through Regent’s Park, resting as he goes, on his way for his daily radiotherapy treatment. Rashid is a new convert to the Muslim faith, working in the library of the Mosque and slowly getting to know people there when the atrocity occurs.
Tom has come to London to do his brother Jason a favour. Jason is just home from the army where he has been in Afghanistan, and he’s quite an angry young man. Tom’s girlfriend Rachel has recently suffered a terrible experience and Tom is having trouble reconciling his feelings about her ever since. His sense of guilt about this is tangible. Deena is a relatively new P.C. with the Metropolitan Police. Keen to make her mark, she wants to become a detective one day. Her boyfriend is a personal trainer in Dubai, though she finds him very controlling and is thinking of ending their relationship.
Jan is a journalist. Hanging onto her job by a thread because in these days of instant news and cutbacks in print journalism, she’s that most difficult of things, an expensive journalist over the age of 30 who doesn’t actually think that you can do the job from behind a desk all the time.
Over the course of a week these five characters will meet and mix around Regent’s Park; some will come to know others better; a couple will learn that keeping their own counsel is sometimes better than chatting to a stranger and at least two will be in serious danger.
It will start with Saul and Tom meeting in the park and gradually forming a slow trust and from there it will escalate in directions that no-one, least of all Saul, could have foreseen.
I really enjoyed meeting these characters and in the course of the book, learning a bit here and there in a light touch way about the fundamentals of the Islamic religion. I found the characters convincing and sympathetic and this really helped to make the book an excellent read.
Ian Ridley has written a convincing and persuasive account of a fictional event that could all too plausibly be true, set in a London that is recognisable not just for its setting but for its vibrancy and multi culturalism. That mixture of the feel good glow after the closing London Olympic Ceremony, coupled with the horror of an atrocity committed in the midst of everyday business provides a chilling backdrop to an all too human story where the relationships that form are the backbone of the story.
I really enjoyed this book and I learnt something. I can’t ask for more than that.
About Ian Ridley
Ian is an award-winning football writer and the author of 10 books. A former chairman of Weymouth and St Albans City, he has been writing about football for over 30 years, having worked for various newspapers including the Daily Telegraph, The Independent on Sunday and The Observer.
You can follow Ian on @IanRidley1
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