Angry, funny, controversial and unpredictable, Incendiary was one of the most talked-about books of 2005. Not since Alex Garland's The Beach has a debut novel used such compulsive storytelling to convey a distopian vision of moral degradation. Not since Roddy Doyle's The Woman Who Walked Into Doors has a male writer created such a powerful female voice.
From her first sentence, Cleave's narrator seduces the reader with her biting, deadpan wit, her no-nonsense attitude and her love for her son. Over the next 250 pages, we must watch her suffer. Eleven suicide bombers turn the stadium into an inferno during an Arsenal-Chelsea match. Her husband and four-year-old son are blown to smithereens. She is left with an empty ex-Council flat in Bethnal Green and nothing to live for. And so she writes Osama Bin Laden a letter to tell him just what she thinks, a letter that takes the reader into a frightening maze of class-bound relationships - and right to the dark heart of a London under siege.
A unique, twisted powerhouse of a novel, Incendiary has had readers staying up all night to finish it, then up half the next night arguing about it. Not since Martin Amis has a writer pinned a generation down on a mat like this and refused to allow it up till it admits it's rotten.