There is very little to like about the characters in Martin Amis’s “London Fields”. Violent lowlife Keith Talent indulges in the vices – drinking, gambling, being a part of crime, watching television and pornography – and is cheating on and abusing his wife. Idle Guy Clinch is a rich banker who has a dysfunctional family, and the reader is therefore most likely to be sympathetic to him, yet he only sinks deeper into despair and self-destruction. Unreliable narrator Samson Young documents these narratives, though there is also little to link about his self-loathing tendencies and his dreary expositions. And Nicola Six plays these three men against another, and from the beginning she manipulates them so as to bring about her own predetermined murder.
Each chapter is standardised with two parts: the first documenting interactions between Talent, Clinch, and Six, and the second a reflective summary of Young, with some information about his own struggles. In fact, the first parts of the first 12 chapters alternate between the Talent, Six, and Clunch – in that order – who are branded respectively in first three chapters as “the murderer”, “the murderee”, and “the foil”, given their different potential roles in Six’s murder. Clinch, for instance, not only provides large sums of money to Six for her manipulation, but is intended to also provoke Talent to eventually commit the murder.
The book is more chronological in the final 12 chapters, and in this second half the plot progresses a little more quickly, until the murder right at the very end. The book for me, however, took a long time to get going, and felt bogged down by digressions, streams of consciousness of Young, as well as narratives or conversations which dragged on much longer than they should have had. Too esoteric for me, perhaps. While knowing the characters and their traits was more straightforward, figuring out their motivations – especially Six’s – was a much taller order, and the underwhelming twist or conclusion was not a good pay off for the hard slog.