When I first read the linked collection Hawthorn and Child I was so excited. I was like, ‘But, but…I didn’t know you were allowed to do this!’ In each story, there’s a depth of detail, an access to the contemporary world which is rare and almost spooky – as if the events of the story might be happening just round the corner. But there’s also a strong narrative compulsion – often involving dread. This story is about a North London thief out of his depth, and has a lot of brilliant dialogue in cars. The way he uses the connections between the stories in his linked collections – both Hawthorn and Child and A Shock – feels less contrived than the big narratives in many regular novels. He never over-exploits a single idea.
First published in The New Yorker, April 2011, and available to subscribers to read here. Collected in Hawthorn and Child, Granta, 2013