There is a problem that many high-concept properties have. The concept is more interesting than any individual story you can tell about it. This is a problem common with many hero-led action films and other media adaptations*. The idea behind The Apologist is that compensation claimees who get apologised to tend to settle on much less than those who don’t. A (not strictly) logical extrapolation finds our hero flung into a word where he is the UN’s chief apologist for wrongs suffered on other countries ? a conciliator who is happy to accept all of the blame.

There are lots of stories which could be told about someone whose job it is to go and apologise for much of the world’s ills. You can almost see it as a TV series, albeit lacking anything but purely intellectual tension. Rayner, to his credit, tells as many of these stories as he can. But at the same time he is telling the story of Marc Bassett, his lead: ex-food writer now chief apologist. And so the two strands become a little tangled, in an admittedly entertaining but vaguely unsatisfying way.

It is also unclear from the tone what Rayner thinks of apologies in general. He is certainly happy to set up a large number of world events which should be apologised for, though the satire inherent in getting a professional apologist in for the job dissipates slightly when you end up caring about said apologist. In the end the book seems to disapprove more of the idea of professional apologies than apologies in general: which makes the book a touch circular as on the only place such professional apologisers exist are between the pages of The Apologist.

The food bits are great though.

*Spider-man for example suffers this problem. The concept is well known, and executed, but as there is no definitive Spider-Man story (beyond the origin) so you then have to build a story generic enough to feel as if it belongs, but specific enough to engage an audience. Examples where this fail massively litter movie history, especially in the TV to Film category, where a strong concept flails in search of a good story (The Avengers). Sometime, of course, the concept isn?t even strong and all you are left with after updating and recasting is a theme tune (S.W.A.T. or The Mod Squad anyone?)