In Our Mad And Furious City by Guy Gunaratne

Guy Gunaratne's In Our Mad And Furious City is set on a north London estate where a white soldier has just been murdered in the street by a black Muslim youth - there are obvious echoes of the Lee Rigby murder. The summer air is thick with tension and unease, with far-right protesters targeting the estate and the nearby mosque becoming increasingly radical.

Against this backdrop, three teenage boys are trying make sense of their place in the city and what their futures might be. Selvon wants to escape to university and knows that his sporting prowess might be as much of a way in as his academic ability. Ardan, who has a difficult home life with a depressed, alcoholic mother, is devoted to his beloved dog and hopes to make grime music into his escape route. Finally, there's Yusuf, grieving for his late father and increasingly uneasy with the hardline theological stance taken by the man who has replaced him as the imam of the local mosque. Their friendship is casual - they all go to the same school and they play football with the other estate kids - but they're loyal to one another in their own ways and there's more that unites than divides them. Most notably, they're all attuned to the gritty tension of the Stones estate, and feel, to an extent, trapped by it. Selvon, who in fact lives just off it 'in a proper house with a proper fam', guides us as he takes his regular running route through its streets and precincts, hemmed in by concrete tower blocks and betting shops as he shows us the areas where 'man only come for barber's, canned food or like batteries, ennet'.

The voices of all three boys are full of the slang and dialect of working class London teenagers, which transcends race and is reflected in the lyrics of the grime artists worshipped by Ardan. Although I think this is effectively done, it does mean that there aren't always enough differences between the three of them to make them feel as distinct from one another as I'd have liked. That said, their descriptions of their environment and the people in it are vibrant and almost poetic, and they bring the estate to life so remarkably well that we feel as if we know it.

In addition to the three boys, we also hear from two older residents, both immigrants - Caroline, sent to London from West Belfast in the 70s when the Troubles had a devastating and brutalising impact on her family, and Nelson, who came to London from Montserrat in the days of teddy boys, Notting Hill race riots and the resurgence of Oswald Moseley. Their perspectives on previous episodes of urban unrest are interesting, but in some ways feel like part of a different novel - or perhaps should be novels in their own right, as I didn't feel this one really does them justice.

One of things Gunaratne does best in this book is to convey a sense of ominousness throughout, constantly simmering and threatening to boil over. Even the very architecture seems threatening.  I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that when things do reach breaking point, it feels almost inevitable rather than shocking.

There were times when I felt it misfired slightly, and I felt that perhaps a little more resolution of certain plot elements would have made it stronger overall. However, this is a powerful read, if at times an uncomfortable one.