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Armadillo by William Boyd

Armadillo (1998)

by William Boyd

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This is one of those books that's more of a 'what can happen next' variety than a story with a specific purpose. Because of that it is more interesting than compelling and leans more heavily on character and characterization than with action. It also has an ensemble cast sort of feel to it, similar to the supporting cast in Boyd's later book Ordinary Thunderstorms. Most of them are caricatures; the sage, the buffoon, the evil boss, the feckless brother. Lorimer Black has to deal with all of them and try to keep his head above water at the same time. Most of them don't make it easy to do so.

Lorimer is quirky and mysterious enough to drive the story well, but isn't cartoon-y. I loved the Book of Transfiguration device. It seemed fresh; not quite a journal, but since it's written by Lorimer it gives us a lot of insight into his past, opinions and state of mind. A recurring subject in the Book of Transfiguration is sleep. Lorimer doesn't get much and throughout the novel attends a sleep clinic to try to harness his lucid dreams so he can sleep better. As many other things in his life, this doesn't work out quite as well as he'd hoped. Another frequent subject in the BoT is armor. Lorimer collects armor, well he collects helmets. Sort of. In the beginning he has 3 ancient helms which get traded in on a 4th, much more expensive item, the fate of which is amusing. Other subjects in the BoT are a partial history of his family, key to understanding his relationship and new name; George Hogg, Lorimer's boss and chief tormenter; the incident of Sinbad Fingleton, the shepherd's pie and the television which culminated in L's flight from Scotland and immediate name change.

As you can see, this is a really difficult book to describe. If you like modern farce, societal send-ups and just plain whackiness, The Armadillo is perfect. ( )
1 vote Bookmarque | Jul 30, 2015 |
Absolutely brilliant - to the very end. Did not want to stop reading this book. ( )
  Des2 | Mar 31, 2013 |
Bought this on a whim, took a little while to get into it, but once it got into its stride, wow!! Torquil Helvoir-Jayne is possibly the best comedy character I have encountered in fiction. Some fantastic writing here, definitely left me wanting to read more of Boyd's work ( )
  jayne_charles | Sep 7, 2010 |
As you'd expect from William Boyd, Armadillo is well written and readable. The plot isn't quite strong enough though, or the characters particularly interesting. I'd describe several of Boyd's books - notably Any Human Heart, Restless and Brazzaville Beach - as absorbing; this one isn't. ( )
  YossarianXeno | Sep 7, 2010 |
He was in his failed detective novel phase. About some complicated insurance scam - good writing, especially in the beginning, but he seems unclear if he wants to write a love story or a detective novel, and neither quite worked. ( )
1 vote bobbieharv | Jan 30, 2008 |
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In these times of ours - and we don't need to be precise about the exact date - but, anyway, very early in the year, a young man not much over thirty, tall - six feet plus an inch or two - with ink-dark hair and a serious-looking, fine featured but pallid face, went to keep a business appointment and discovered a hanged man.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 014027944X, Paperback)

Lorimer Black may suffer from a serious sleep disorder and an obsession with the labyrinths of the British class system, but Armadillo's peculiar protagonist is the star insurance adjuster of London's Fortress Sure PLC, unaffectionately known as the Fort. At the very start of William Boyd's noir-ish seventh novel, however, things take a decided swerve for the worse. On a bleak January morning one of his cases has apparently chosen to kill himself rather than talk: "Mr. Dupree was simultaneously the first dead person he had encountered in his life, his first suicide and his first hanged man and Lorimer found this congruence of firsts deceptively troubling."

Soon our hero, who himself has a lot to hide, finds himself threatened by a dodgy type whose loss he has adjusted way down and embroiled with the beautiful married actress Flavia Malinverno. "People who've lost something, they call on you to adjust it, make the loss less hard to bear? As if their lives are broken in some way and they call on you to fix it," Flavia dippily wonders. Lorimer also has his car torched and instantly goes from an object of affection to one of deep suspicion at the Fort. Then there is another case, the small matter of the rock star who may or may not be faking the Devil he says is sitting on his left shoulder.

Needless to say, Lorimer is "becoming fed up with this role of fall guy for other people's woes." Boyd adds a deep layer of psychological heft and a lighter level of humor to this thinking-person's thriller by exploring Lorimer's manifold personal and social fears. This is a man who desperately collects ancient helmets even though he knows they offer only "the illusion of protection." Another of Armadillo's many pleasures: its dose of delicious argot. Should Lorimer "oil" the apparent perpetrator of the Fedora Palace arson before he's oiled himself? Or perhaps he just needs to "put the frighteners" on him. Boyd definitely puts the frighteners on his readers more than once in this cinematically seedy and dazzling literary display. --Kerry Fried

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:53 -0400)

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Lorimer Black, young and good-looking, finds his life turned upside down after discovering a dead body.

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