HarperCollins £9.99

Belfast author Colin Bateman has built up a healthy fan base with his entertaining and often riotously witty Dan Starkey novels. Here he makes a foray into political based comedy, which is darker than his usual efforts. It's also very disappointing.

'Mohammed Maguire' chronicles the journey of the eponymous protagonist from childhood into early adulthood. The son of an IRA terrorist mother and an Egyptian fundamentalist father, Mohammed's formative years are spent between safe houses in Belfast and training camps in the Middle East. When his parents are killed after one of these camps is destroyed by US Marines, 10-year-old Mo is brought back to Ireland. He is instantly cast into the political vortex of the North, a hero to the Republican movement and, as a result, vilified by the British press.

Told in flashback, 'Mohammed Maguire' never gets into a comfortable and confident flow and, surprisingly, Bateman's prose is awkward and stuttering. There are sporadic sparks of the legendary Bateman wit but it's a forced rather than natural effort. Apart from the fact that the plot of the novel itself is problematic, any chances of it germinating into compelling fiction are stifled by Bateman's inability to depict the child Mo with any sense of credibility.

The whole approach is laboured, and the hanging finale is nothing more than a last-ditch effort at suspense. If you want Bateman at his best, avoid this and buy any of his Starkey novels.

Tom Grealis