Fig Tree £12.99 (408pp) £11.69 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

Jerusalem, By Patrick Neate

Patrick Neate's rollicking debut introduced 19-year-old Musungu Jim, a wimpish, gap-year Brit teaching English in the fictional mid-African state of Zambawi. Jim's engagement with huge spliffs, an over-sexed witchdoctor and an inept coup d'état was a comic romp given surprising depth by Neate's detailed invention of Zambawian mythology. Twelve Bar Blues, his second novel, transposed the witchdoctor, Jim and "a knackered old whore" called Sylvia to America in search of African roots. Neate's snappy prose swelled with the jazzy rhythms of the Big Easy to deliver a second ribald, hugely satisfying instalment of Zambawian high jinks.

Jerusalem, his compelling fifth novel, is billed as the final instalment to this belatedly-defined trilogy. It's darker and more ambitious, bringing his ruminations on cultural heritage and authenticity into sharper focus.

Jim is back in Zambawi, but dying of Aids, with Sylvia now his wife. They foster children orphaned by Aids, coping with 18 life-hungry kids (and the emotional legacy of many wards who have died already). The witchdoctor is in solitary confinement, raving prophetically, having offered unpalatable advice to the President – whose misrule and posturing against the former colonial powers bring him and his country into close proximity with the very real crises of Zimbabwe.

Despite private woes, Jim and Sylvia have purposeful, substantial lives, in quiet contrast to the Pinner family, whose more selfish antics bring the focus to England and Englishness. Preston Pinner, known as P or Tuppence, left Cambridge with an acute sense of the commercial value of his "intuitive grasp of what was cool". He founds Authenticity, a fashionable and lucrative agency that helps companies to associate their product with the numinous quality of coolness.

Philanderer, alcoholic and P's dad, David Pinner is a Foreign Office minister and shameless opportunist. Sent to Zambawi to negotiate the release of an arrested businessman, he fantasises about his triumphant return; but Neate's deft storytelling allows arrogance and prejudice to pitch him into deliciously Zambawian turmoil.

Jerusalem uses the Pinners to lampoon the vacuities of the PR industry and politics. Neate has plenty of fun with Nobody, P's latest protégé, whose "simultaneously nostalgic and angry" rapped version of Blake's anthemic poem gives an incendiary, immigrant's eye take on British culture. Neate has produced an upbeat entertainment that, unlike its subjects, does manage to probe some essential aspects of morality, character and identity. Witty and acerbic dialogue impel an unflagging comic plot, with Neate confident enough to allow weightier questions to hang in the balance.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

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


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

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

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

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

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'

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

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

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    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