Jonathan Cape, £16.99
Roddy Doyle's follow up to 'A Star Called Henry' continues the tale of Henry Smart, a former gunman on the run from his IRA commanders. It's a very macho tale but has undercurrents of sentimentality also.
Henry arrives in 1920s New York with the hope that he can leave his past behind. Everywhere he looks he sees opportunities to make a name for himself, but he soon learns that the people who are chasing him would be prepared to come as far as New York to silence him. He also angers local gangsters when he starts stealing their business.
On the run again, Henry finds himself in Chicago, a new city where he thinks he can really start again and his determination to succeed is compounded when he hears a young Louis Armstrong play the trumpet. But Louis' talent is hampered by his colour. There are places a black man isn't welcome, he needs a white man to make him acceptable and the man he chooses is Henry. But it isn't long before Henry's past, the good and the bad, catches up with him again and he must either run or die.
There's a real electric current to Doyle's book, the snappy dialogue and run-ins with the mob making the tale fast-paced. But it never delivers fully on its early promise of excitement. The confrontations aren't dangerous enough considering Henry is a former IRA man with a penchant for getting into trouble. We always know he's going to just barely get away with his life.
Henry himself is a real man's man, meaning this tale is much more directed to a male audience. But his weakness for strong women is a nice touch and the fact that they're often far more in the know than the clueless Henry ensures the book's appeal to women too.
'Oh, Play That Thing' is a roller-coaster of a read that should see Doyle fans eager for the next volume of Henry's adventure.