'There's two types of creatures in this world," Amber's father told her when she was a girl, "predators and prey.

You need to decide which you're going to be." And, in the course of this novel, several people do have to decide whether they're going to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or else turn a dangerous situation to their advantage.

Nothing Is Heavy is set in an unnamed city, where we find the adult Amber working in a pole-dancing club, a young woman named Beth in a chippie down the road and George, on his way home from a stag night, having turned up dressed in a monkey costume. The accidental dislodging of some roof slates by Amber and the club owner, John, sets the wheels of the plot in motion, killing John while his partners in a cocaine deal are enjoying the hospitality downstairs. Seeing the opportunity of an escape to a better life suddenly opening up before her, Amber decides to complete the transaction herself, securing Beth's help in return for a cut of the profits.

In their own ways, they're all damaged people. Beth was in a car crash that killed her boyfriend and left her feeling numb and lost. Amber's sad history is gradually revealed as the story progresses. On the face of it, George is the least traumatised, his main problem being a lack of ambition that lost him his childhood sweetheart. But, just as badly as the other two, he needs the jolt of the events of this night to put his life back on track.

Most readers' enjoyment of this novel will depend on their tolerance for contrived coincidences, as unsuspected and implausible links between the central characters are continually being unveiled. But the Edinburgh-based author's message would appear to be how interconnected we all are, on levels that we may never discover, and her dynamic and often comical storytelling ensures we keep turning the pages.

While her protagonists do indeed seize their opportunities, they do so in a way that repudiates Amber's father's credo, allowing compassion as well as self-interest to guide their actions in an ultimately life-affirming story.


Vicki Jarrett, Linen Press, £9.99