HJ Hampson clearly wasn't looking to ingratiate herself into the glitterati by writing this dark satire.

If it did earn her an invitation to an exclusive party, she would only be the spectre at the feast, hovering on the margins as a haunting reminder of the vacuity of their lifestyles.

Her central character is footballer Beaumont Alexander who, together with his consort, Krystal McQueen, make a Posh 'n' Becks-style couple. At a party in the opening chapter, we see the world through his eyes, and live to regret the insight. From humble beginnings, Beaumont has graduated to an insulated celebrity bubble that's unlocked his inner snob, and he ruthlessly assesses the eligibility of the other guests to breathe the same air as him. It irritates him that an 18-year-old newly chosen for the England squad is considered important enough to be invited. Another player's girlfriend looks "too chavvy". To cap it all, with his brain fogged by booze, coke and self-importance, he rapes one of the waitresses, tossing her £50 once he's finished.

"My skin is smooth and golden, not an imperfection anywhere, the black swirls of my Japanese Warrior tats standing out beautifully," he thinks in wonder as he admires his reflection. When his resentment of the media threatens to overpower the effects of his "anxiety tablets and mood pills", he calms himself by picturing Koi Carp in a pond, an image presumably suggested by a very expensive therapist.

The celebrity bubble works both ways in this novel, not just something that cocoons people like Beaumont from the average working stiff, but a place where new evils can take root and grow, undetected by the outside world. This starts to become apparent when Krystal is accidentally killed in a drink- and drug-fuelled argument and Beaumont has to cover up her death. The trenchant first-person narration, which until this point has mainly been used to ridicule the rich and vain, comes into its own as an engine for driving the story at a page-turning pace that's hard to resist.

There are shades of An Inspector Calls when Beaumont is questioned by Detective Inspector G Dante. The plebs he normally encounters usually just want an autograph, so Beaumont is understandably ill at ease; but Dante, with his ability to slip between worlds, feels enigmatic and impenetrable even to us.

The arrival on the scene of DI Dante, not least because of his name, feels as though it's heralding a move into weirder territory. Which it is, although it's a little while before we grasp the nature of the bizarre turn the story is taking. From there, the sense of unreality and paranoia increases, and the narrative starts to head in earnest towards a climax.

This savage black comedy is actually vaguely reminiscent of a South Park story which mashes up Britney Spears's travails with the plot of The Wicker Man. But Hampson takes it a step further: knowing that her readers probably feel themselves to be above the tabloid celebrity game, she nevertheless ensnares our complicity by reflecting back our own schadenfreude at seeing Beaumont's fall from grace.