The Man with the Ivory Ear is a fast-paced and earthy thriller in which several plots intertwine to form an original story. Woodhouse, a battle scarred SIS operative, is tasked to find a stealth helicopter which has been stolen from an American airbase by the psychic eponymous villain. Woodhouse is hampered, however, by recurring headaches, attempts on his life and bewildering flashbacks to traumatic childhood occurrences like ‘Badger-gate’ and ‘The Birds and the Bees’.
In a cat pottery in rural Norfolk, meanwhile, Cubby, an overweight youth in unrequited love with a girl from a nearby bakery, has accidentally created a ceramic feline with an unmistakable resemblance to Adolf Hitler. This cat (the Cat-Führer), which may or may not be a reincarnation of the Nazi despot, possesses the mind of Gruber, a timid legal assistant, and begins to direct his actions to increasingly disturbing ends. And after the young Woodhouse’s mother suffers a nervous breakdown post ‘Badger-gate’, and his father retreats into an invented ‘Northern’ persona, the boy is sent to a strict boarding school, setting in motion a chain of events that will ultimately lead to tragedy.
The world in which The Man with the Ivory Ear takes place is as our own but the supernatural is more commonplace and the characters more used to dealing with unusual goings on. Themes of love, loss, guilt and obsession are obliquely examined by a narrator as pleasingly fluctuant as his characters. The book will be enjoyed by readers who like the unexpected and for characters to act out of turn.