PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 June, 2012, 12:00am


by Chris Cleave
Hodder & Stoughton (e-book)

Chris Cleave's The Other Hand, a psychological thriller set in Africa that ended on a clever twist, proved an unlikely word-of-mouth best-seller. His first novel, Incendiary, imagined what might happen to London during a terrorist attack. It was published shortly after the all-too-real terrorist attack on London in 2005. Gold is just as timely: its basic plot is driven by three cyclists preparing for 2012's Olympics. There is a tentatively married couple, Jack and Kate, and there is Zoe, Kate's main rival, whose will to win derives from all manner of inner demons. Giving a context

to all this competition and competitiveness is their trainer, Tom, who missed out on Olympic gold by less than a second. Putting everything in its place is Jack and Kate's daughter, Sophie, who is suffering from leukaemia. The narrative zips between characters, times and places. I particularly enjoyed Sophie's Star Wars-inspired fantasies, which hide her own physical and emotional torments. Gold is odd, but impressive. The body-sapping training and races are described with real urgency. This is a novel about the need for speed, and its costs. A thrilling and sobering reminder that occasionally we live better when we slow down.