The Girl on the Landing, By Paul Torday

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The Independent Culture

This is a tricky one, mainly because the writing is so lamentably prosaic ("the food and the wine were good" – a horribly unimaginative sentence that Torday might have gotten away with had it been intended to display the torpor of his main character's mind, but it's also repeated by that character's wife, and is also indicative of a great deal of the writing in this novel), and the characters so ridiculously stiff, formal and old-fashioned that it's a shock when they mention emails and texts.

But there is something interesting going on somewhere in this tale of the seemingly one-dimensional Michael, whose glimpse of a girl in a painting hung in an old Irish country house triggers strange goings-on, disturbing his bored wife and concerning friends at his London club, Grouchers.

Torday wants to ask deeper questions about identity – there is an unpleasant sub-story about an Indian businessman wanting to join Grouchers. But these never quite emerge, because Torday is also wedded to producing a suspenseful plot. He does succeed with the latter, at least.