As enigmatic Martin Dash is interviewed at law firm Stone Rose for a job on the development team, he stuns his potential employers by confiding that his medical condition anhedonia precludes him from feeling anything. Yet equipped with a glowing reference from his previous firm, any concerns about his condition are suppressed and his appointment confirmed.

Foreshadowing murky dealings later, it is observed that Dash is a ‘dream lawyer for a property developer’, particularly the dodgy Barry Rogers for whom the ‘cachet of your very own lawyer being infinitely more vicious and venal than the rest was considerable’.

For colleagues Maisie and Susan their interest in Martin lies in his good looks – ‘a direct echo straight back to the 1980s of Duran Duran and Princess Diana’ – and in his unusual condition. Maisie is determined to hook up with this ice man. Susan, though, makes a deeper connection and is intrigued by how he handles anhedonia.

Author: Andy Bailey

£6.99, Bonja Books

Since Susan’s father Jimmy is secretary of state for defence there is a colourful scene involving luminaries from the world of politics and film – and Martin seems to fit in nicely. But the reader can sense an unreliable narrator questioning what is real or fake, and even after painstakingly drawing a character Bailey neatly lapses into satire – ‘they looked like brothers. From an alien civilisation of idealised mannequins’.

Bailey is clever with names too. Stone Rose neatly encapsulates Susan and Martin’s relationship, whose future is tantalisingly kept from us until the last page. It is a pity, though, as Bailey unpicks the man with the ‘weapons-grade efficiency and exotic illness’, that he is unable to sustain the tightly written style of his early chapters.

Nicholas Goodman