Constable £12.99 (242pp) £11.69 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

At The Chime of a City Clock, By DJ Taylor

That's three books in a row from DJ Taylor that circle around the turn of the decadent 1920s into the low dishonest decade that followed it. First we had the group biography Bright Young People, which went on to inform the novel Ask Alice, about an American farm girl risen to the shady heights of British society. Now At the Chime of a City Clock advertises itself boldly as "a thriller", rather as Graham Greene designated some of his slighter works "entertainments".

Taylor provides some splashes of high-class colour, but by and large we are in the grey-washed world of London boarding houses and door-to-door salesmen. James Ross is an aspiring writer making ends meet by flogging bottles of violent carpet cleaner to Bayswater widows. His entry to a more dangerous world comes courtesy of a beautiful redhead, Susie, secretary to Mr Rasmussen, a businessman of vague denomination.

The plot's climax comes when Ross, under pressure from the police, inveigles his way into a country-house weekend where Rasmussen is a guest. He doesn't catch Rasmussen at anything, but then not very dramatic happens at all. Earlier, Taylor carefully sets up a night-time jewellery shop burglary, but it's abandoned when the tension's highest. He goes to similar pains to engineer a sting operation, in which Ross is to pretend to have an affair with a bored film star to provoke her husband into divorcing her, but that too peters out inconsequentially.

Which is not to say that the novel is a failure: far from it. Taylor paces his story brilliantly, but it is a gentle Sunday trot through his chosen genre, rather than a breakneck race. I rarely found myself on the edge of my seat: no, I was comfortably shiggled far back in it, enjoying every politely underpowered set piece, every period detail worn unostentatiously – Lyons coffee houses, jellygraph machines, hoodlums who call women "borassics" and say, "What a mulligatawny, eh?". Taylor even observes the etiquette of the period regarding profanity: "F-----g tarts' clothes messing up his good suit! The idea."

In the end, that cover should read "a thriller... for bookish types". If you can spot the link to Julian Maclaren-Ross in the hero's name, and to Patrick Hamilton's Hangover Square in that of his ex-girlfriend Netta, then you're more than likely to chuckle over the seedy private detective Faulks with his brown mac and his "strand or two of spindly hair plastered across his head". All in good fun, of course, and a carefully-wrought, warm and inoffensive sort of fun is what this book is all about. I hope it doesn't come across as faint praise to say it's as pleasurable as a sit-down with nice cup – no, a pot – of good tea.

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas