Harper Collins £6.99stg

Belfast journalist Dan Starkey returns for his fourth outing in Colin Bateman's 'Shooting Sean', a funny and highly entertaining tale of narcotics, terrorism and eh, moviemaking.

Dan Starkey is stuck in a rut. Settled with wife Patricia and 'son' little Stevie, his career has taken something of a nosedive and his life, in general, is in serious need of fresh impetus. The impetus arrives in style when Starkey is asked to pen a biography of movie star Sean O'Toole to coincide with the latter's latest film venture. His decision to accept leaves not only Starkey brutally exposed, but his wife and child also…

One thing that has to be pointed out about 'Shooting Sean' is that the plot becomes somewhat ridiculous in the latter stages. The initial premise is fine, interesting even, but as the novel proceeds Bateman introduces some ill-advised plot twists. His decision to go for suspense over characterization certainly panders to the mainstream, but it is a pandering one cannot but enjoy.

With Dan Starkey, Bateman has created a character that is uncomfortably easy to identify with. Devoid of focus, direction or anything approaching ambition, Starkey is the ultimate slacker with attitude. And it is this very attitude that elevates Bateman above the current deluge of thriller/comedy writers. His ability to find humour in the most trying of circumstances is Bateman's trump card, and in 'Shooting Sean' this ability is given carte blanche.

Engaging, funny and eminently readable. Chances are the screenplay is in the pipeline.

Tom Grealis