Flaming hell Michael Ignatieff, in an interview in the FT a few weekends ago, made some interesting, informed comments about the Iraq situation and the future of the UN. On the strength of this, I picked up a copy of his new novel, Charlie Johnson In The Flames, and was hugely disappointed.

It’s a simple story of a war reporter who witnesses one-too-many horrific events in the Balkans and goes off on a misguided revenge tip. At only 160-odd pages, I could barely believe how superficial and predictable it was. There are few characters, none of whom are drawn with much personality, the story is thin at best and its analysis of violence seemed facile. A similar story of a war criminal being tracked down and confronted in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is far more powerful, and is only one strand of Murakami’s sprawling novel.

Ignatieff clearly knows what he’s talking about and his non-fiction work is highly regarded. However, Charlie Johnson is duff stuff indeed.