The latest offering from Martin Amis tells the story of two brothers caught in a love triangle with a woman they both love. It is set around the ‘house of meetings,’ a half-way house where Gulag prisoners were permitted to enjoy, or more commonly endure, conjugal visits. Emotive subject, one might expect. So how is it that he makes it so bland and detached? It reads like it has been written by an avid amateur; a wannabe Russian who has read a lot of books and thinks he understands the native mindset. The narrator does not convince, his life is an amalgam of disparate influences and we are deluged with facts and fragments of everyday life that read more like a ‘Schott’s almanac of Russia’ than a novel. Martin Amis is an intelligent writer, I wish he wasn’t so determined to prove it all the time.