Joe Bennett (Simon & Schuster)
The author embarks on a journey through China to trace a pair of underpants from department store shelves backwards through the various stages of production.
On the way, he maps the social and economic changes driving China’s emergence as an economic powerhouse.
Bennett is at his best when self-deprecatingly sketching his travails as a fish out of water, but labours to inject try-hard Gonzo flourishes.
That’s fine if you’re Hunter S Thomspon, but Bennett’s voice isn’t interesting enough to justify the technique.
Also, Bennett allows himself to get bogged down in the mundane procedural detail of his mission – presenting the reader with full transcripts of email correspondence with his various sources.
The book suffers from the conceit that it’s an investigative, socio-economic study, when it’s no more than a gimmicky romp which isn’t much fun to begin with.
It leaves the reader asking why Bennett bothered.