Jason Priestley (the disillusioned teacher and struggling freelance journalist, not the star of Beverly Hills 90210) is standing on a London street one evening when a girl drops half her belongings as she gets into a cab. He helps her to pick them up, but before he knows it the taxi roars off and she’s gone. Then it dawns on him that she’s left something behind – a small disposable camera.
Writer and broadcaster Danny Wallace has come up with a sensational starting point for his debut novel. It grabbed my attention immediately and I was desperate to discover what happened to the pair.
But oddly enough, even though I couldn’t wait to find out if Jason tracked the girl down or not, I wasn’t quite as gripped by Charlotte Street as I’d thought. The problem could well be that I expected too much. One critic has predicted that Charlotte Street will be this year’s One Day, while another marked it out as his top tip for 2012.
Even so, it’s an entertaining read and Wallace’s portrayal of 21st century London is spot on. As Jason hares around the capital (and on a jaunt up north) trying to discover who the girl is, I felt I was on the trail with him. Not only that, Wallace’s supporting characters are an eclectic and wonderfully portrayed mix – including Dev, Jason’s over-excitable, computer game-obsessed flatmate, Sarah, his slightly po-faced ex-girlfriend, and Abbey, a young singer who causes havoc at Sarah’s engagement party.
Charlotte Street would make a great movie and I’m not surprised that Working Title has snapped up the film rights. This is a fun, feel-good story, with a self-deprecating, likeable hero and an intriguing storyline. It augers well for Wallace’s next novel.
Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace (Ebury Press, £12.99)