In the System – at least the parts of it that I lived in – all that mattered, all you really had, was your reputation. Two men went into a box, and one got killed and one climbed out, it doesn’t matter if you were bloodied and beaten. It doesn’t matter if you begged and bribed, wept and cursed inside that box – all that matters is that you lived and he died. That’s all anyone ever remembered.

I like swearing. There’s nothing like an inventive outburst of expletives. I pepper my everyday conversations with ‘colourful language’, usually without even thinking about it. Curse-words are wonderful fun and were generally the only reasons for my fellow pupils in primary school cracking open a dictionary.

“What’s a bastard miss?”

If you enjoy an amusing line in abusive language I would recommend Armando Iannucci’s The Thick of It, which features a character named Malcolm Tucker, the most foul-mouthed, gloriously filthy ‘swearer’, in fiction.

Unfortunately some writers simply cannot capture that level of dizzying scatology.

Avery Cates is known as the ‘king’, of New York. A professional killer, who survived an assault on the legendary ‘Electric Church’, in London, he cannot be touched by the city’s cops as for some reason his name has been included on a protection list.  He cannot be harmed by any law officer in New York, despite a well-known reputation as a cop-killer.

Nevertheless, Cates is a marked man. Kidnapped and blindfolded, he is taunted with information about his past that only someone who knows him could be aware of. Then his unseen assailants insert something into his throat and he is abandoned on the street. Consumed by rage, Cates sets out to discover who attacked him, but he has bigger problems to deal with.

One by one everyone he meets falls sick from a debilitating disease, suffering a gruesome death within two days. Cates, it is revealed, has been injected with a virus designed to emanate from him, killing everyone in New York, but leaving him unharmed. That list of deaths he is responsible for keeps growing and growing. Cates sets off on a race against time to discover who is responsible, before he can wipe out the whole of humanity.

Ok, everyone in this book curses. Every line of dialogue slumps on the page, stuffed with expletives. It is not even funny, just tiresome posturing and insults. It irritated the hell out of me, almost as much as Somers’ references to the first book featuring his callous killer, The Electric Church. Unfortunately I had not realized this was a sequel before I took it out from the library. There was this Church you see, and it was electric. Lots of people were killed in this Church, the electric one you see, but Cates survived. Over and over again we hear about the events of this previous book. I feel like this novel needed a ‘Previously On…’ opening chapter, much like in a prime time thriller.

In an unusual move many of the surviving cast of The Electric Church die, signifying that Somers at least is not interested in writing a formulaic franchise revolving around Mr Avery Cates. Yet the multitude of deaths soon renders the tragedy of this plague excessively logistical. We no longer feel any sense of despair in Cates’ friends being picked off, because death itself becomes repetitive. Much like the cursing! The descriptions of people coughing up bloody phlegm lose their shock value quickly. Honestly Jeff Noon’s Pollen dealt with the idea of a surreal disease in a far-future setting much better.

Poor fare and pretty ho-hum as a work of science fiction.