Jaine Blackman finds a book which makes her laugh... and cry Quicksand is both wonderfully funny and heart-breakingly sad... often on the same page and sometimes in the same sentence.

Ideas come thick and fast and it’s packed with clever insights, smart talking and wild flights of fantasy.

At its heart it’s the story of friendship… and self-destruction.

We meet Aldo Benjamin – a man both optimistic and pessimistic by nature and nurture whose life lurches from one disaster to another – and his friend Liam, a police officer and failing writer, talking in a bar.

Toltz has been quoted as saying his first novel – the Man Booker-shortlisted A Fraction Of The Whole – was about the fear of life and Quicksand, the second, is about the fear of life.

Liam – who has been on hand to get Aldo out of no end of scrapes – has decided his friend would make the perfect subject of a book and the rest of the novel tells how they reached that point and then takes us beyond it.

Aldo is somewhat of a Typhoid Mary, for as well as manufactur-ing a lot of his own bad luck, trailing behind him is a string of failed business and disgruntled investors.

A serial entrepreneur, no idea is too outlandish “a matchmaking service to hook up all the leftover single women in New York and London with all the one-child-policy single men in Shanghai and Beijing”, “a porn website called Fruit ‘n’ Vag that specialised in links to repugnant and unthinkable niches”.

The 435-page novel takes in his wild ride; and while Aldo may fear he is immortal, he’s certainly not immune to pain and indignity or spreading his fears and misfortunes to others. Like quicksand, the harder he struggles with life, the worse it gets.

Early on Liam says: “The weird truth is I’ve often become good friends with people I originally disliked, and the more I downright loathed the person, the better friends we eventually became. This was certainly true of Aldo Benjamin…”

And, like Liam, there’s something about Aldo with all his faults and fears that has the reader hoping against hope for a happy ending.

Quicksand by Steve Toltz, published by Sceptre Books, £17.99 hardback