In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne review – grime-infused tinderbox debut

Desire, desperation, fear and the slashed rhythms of Wiley and Skepta run through this tale of three young men in a jagged London suburb

Early on in Guy Gunaratne’s novel, a group of young men gather for a game of football in a dilapidated outdoor sports court, the players taking their places, emerging like a constellation of stars. They drift over from every corner of the Stones estate as word of the game spreads: the gang of “Serbian kids from down Cricklewood”, the “Somali boys”, then Wayne, Dan, Younes and Nico, who “brings his dog”. It’s an unremarkable scene, doggedly ordinary even, but Gunaratne meticulously details their greetings (that slightly awry “side-hug and a palm on the back”), their small acknowledgments and terse exchanges. Beneath it all are the quiet crosscurrents of schoolboy loyalties and the unspoken fellowship that comes of growing up in a place with limited opportunities ...