When Paul Torday's novel begins, its protagonist is drifting through life. Richard Gaunt spends his time gambling with money he doesn't have and pushing away anyone who tries to get close to him. An ex-British Army soldier, his tours of Afghanistan and Iraq have left him discharged and disorderly. By his own admission he has lived "on the edge" far too long.
Torday wastes little time before tipping Gaunt over that precipice. Another chronic run at the card tables sends him further into the red. Desperate men do desperate things, of course, so when one of his creditors says he will cancel a debt if Gaunt can walk the not inconsequential distance between London to Oxford within a matter of hours, he manfully accepts the challenge.
Gaunt rarely sticks to the straight and narrow and later becomes ensnared by a group of terrorists who are intent on both marrying him off to Nadine Lempriere - a charming young woman with a suitably exotic heritage - and on causing havoc on London's streets. Sadly, not even a pacy ending can make the thrill of this chase much fun.