What we thought: Mosquitoes is a rage against the machine struggle by an everyman frustrated with his life and the establishment. John McKay conjures images of a weary northern soul who is desperate to better the lot of his and his wife’s lives, but meets irresistible force after immovable object at every turn.
The story unfolds across two timelines. In the present, our protagonist, Alex Sumner, is incarcerated in a mental healthcare unit and his treatment whilst there delves into his recent past, which McKay uses to transport us to the backstory of how he has arrived at such a sorry situation. In these flashbacks we learn that he has grown bitter and impatient with everything in his life. His bosses are incompetent pen pushers, while his peers rise up the ranks despite their ineptitude and because they play the corporate three bags full game. Outside of work he is surrounded by morons incapable of holding a coherent conversation and at home his wife has almost become a virtual stranger.
In so many ways Mosquitoes is a snapshot of real life.
The one hope he has for his future is his novel which, by his own admission, is a brilliant masterpiece. It's in the hands of a well-established agent in London who is bound to love it. It's right up her street, or so he thinks.
Inevitably the last straw of annoyance cripples the camel and he embarks on a one-man campaign to shake things up a little and take control of his life. Just like Brexit only with more of an after plan! With every step he gets thumped ever harder by another wake-up call from his job to his marriage, and from his so-called friends to his shattered dreams. As each hit lands he descends further into a self-destructive path of mayhem, which spirals out of control at breakneck speed before arriving at his current location.
On one level, Mosquitoes is the tale of a regular guy trying to cope with his own existence, while on another it is a savage indictment of 21st century Britain.
McKay reminds us that we all have our own journey to make and none of us knows the route or destination. All we have is the steering wheel and the fuel. As individuals we can’t beat the system. By the same token, we can choose our battles and strive to find a path to our own peace.
You’ll like this if you like: Stories of revenge, redemption and coming to terms with the hand you’ve been dealt.
Avoid if you don’t like: A miserable, negative protagonist.
Ideal accompaniments: Panic by The Smiths and any ale except London Pride.
Genre: Contemporary fiction