William Boyd’s Ordinary Thunderstorms is a thriller that explores identity, London society, and the process of approving pharmaceuticals. Set in contemporary London, Ordinary Thunderstorms is a multinarrative story that revolves around the experiences of Adam Kindred, an innocent climatologist suspected of murder, and the trials of Zembla-4, a new drug hyped as a cure for asthma. However, it also follows the stories of prostitute Mhouse, Special Air Service (SAS) veteran Jonjo Case, and CEO Ingram Fryzer.
When Ordinary Thunderstorms opens, Adam Kindred has just concluded a successful interview for a senior research fellowship with Imperial College in London. Adam stops at an Italian restaurant where he talks briefly to another patron, Dr. Philip Wang, who introduces himself as an immunologist. When Wang leaves the restaurant, he forgets a folder, which Adam generously decides to return to the doctor. However, when Adam reaches Wang’s residence, he stumbles upon a murder scene. Wang has been stabbed in the chest with a bread knife and his dying request is that Adam pull out the knife. He does. Before Adam can think, someone returns to the apartment from the balcony and Adam flees with the doctor’s files. To any observer, it seems obvious that Adam has murdered Dr. Philip Wang.
Ingram Fryzer is the CEO of Calenture-Deutz, the pharmaceutical company that employed Dr. Philip Wang. Calenture-Deutz is preparing to bring Zembla-4 before the Food and Drug Administration for approval. Fryzer is largely unaware of what is happening in his company, including that Wang had lost all confidence in Zembla-4 before he was murdered. Additionally, while attempting to respond to Wang’s murder, Fryzer begins to realize that he is losing control of the board of his company. His brother-in-law, Ivo Lord Redcastle, objects to Ingram’s plans for petty reasons. More significantly, Rilke Pharma, a pharmaceutical company run by Alfredo Rilke, has decided to buy out Calenture-Deutz. Rilke has instructed Keegan, another board member for Calenture-Deutz, to find someone to silence Wang.
Jonjo Case, a veteran of the SAS, murders Dr. Philip Wang but fails to retrieve all of Wang’s papers. He is sent after Adam Kindred, whom he tracks to his hotel, but Adam manages to escape after bashing Jonjo with a briefcase. Afraid of being caught by Wang’s murderer, Adam begins “sleeping rough” in a triangular clearing near Chelsea Bridge by the Thames. Before long, his name appears in the newspapers, and a £100,000 reward is offered. Adam resolves to continue hiding rather than give up his freedom to the police and their questions.
Within days, Adam has made a sort of home in the triangle near Chelsea Bridge. He invests in a ground mat, a cooking stove, and a small shovel. Although he spends frugally, Adam begins to run out of money and loses the last of it in a brutal mugging. He is rescued by Mhouse, a prostitute from a slum known as the Shaft. Mhouse provides Adam with some clothing and helps him into a car to return to his hiding place near Chelsea Bridge. Before leaving, Mhouse inexplicably beats Adam with his shovel but also invites him to attend the Church of John Christ.
Beaten and completely impoverished, Adam gives up the last vestiges of his former life and resorts to eating a seagull that he catches along the bank of the Thames. However, a boatman witnesses Adam’s seagull trap and...
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