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Mumtaz Hakim

BRIGHT SHINY THINGS … Between the covers

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barbara-nadel-c-teri-varholBarbara Nadel (left) has created one of the more adventurous pairings in recent private eye fiction. The pair return for another episode set in the modern East End of London. Lee Arnold is a former soldier and policeman but now he is the proprietor of an investigation agency, partnered by a young Anglo Bengali widow, Mumtaz Hakim. Abbas al’Barri was an interpreter back in the first Gulf War, where he became close friends with Arnold. He escaped from Iraq with his family, and settled in London, but now he has a huge problem for which he requires the services of Arnold and Hakim. Fayyad – Abbas’s son – has become radicalised and gone to wage jihad in Syria. After receiving a mysterious package containing a significant religious artifact, Abbas and his wife are convinced that it represents a cry for help from Fayyad who, they believe, is desperate to return home.

Like all his fellow crusaders for The Caliphate, Fayyad has cast off his familial name and now has an identity more fitting, in his eyes, for someone wielding the sword of Islamic justice against the kaffir. Abu Imad also knows his way about the internet and he has established a very distinctive social media profile. On the basis of this, Arnold and Hakim hatch a scheme to lure the young jihadi to Amsterdam where they can discover if his parents’ belief in his change of heart is justified, or simply wishful thinking.

BSTTheir plan, it must be said, is fraught with danger and is almost bound to go pear-shaped, but within the confines of crime fiction thrillers, makes for a nail-biting narrative. What could possibly go wrong with Hakim befriending Abu Imad on Facebook and pretending to be a starstruck Muslim lass called Mishal who would like nothing better than to travel out to Syria to be at her hero’s side? Facebook leads to Skype, and with the help of make-up and a head covering, ‘Mishal’ arranges to travel to Amsterdam, complete with Abu Imad’s shopping list from Harrods. As you might expect, everything then goes wrong, in bloody and spectacular fashion.

Nadel, cleverly, has two plotlines operating in tandem, quite different but subtly linked. We have a standard police procedural centred on the murder of a flamboyant Hindu shopkeeper, Rajiv Banergee, who has been openly gay for a long time. This exposes the flaws and fault lines within Islamic society in regard to its attitude towards homosexuality but also keeps us grounded on familiar territory, fiction-wise. The second plot, of course, is the attempt to ‘rescue’ Fayyad al’Barri. This narrative is laden with tension. We soon realise that Arnold and Hakim are in way over their heads, and we can only hope that the pair escape with their lives from a maelstrom of terrorism, counter terrorism and industrial-strength deception

Nadel gives us an unflinching portrait of the social stresses and strains of the Bengali community in and around its Brick Lane heartland. She pulls no punches when describing how the position and treatment of women by many Bengali men is so often at odds with what could be called modern British and, indeed, Western European values.

The novel never becomes mere polemic, but Nadel does address one of the apparent conundrums of Islam, and that is how a so called religion of peace can allow the atrocities carried out by ISIS and other jihadis. Her answer is not the complete solution, but she neatly points out that most of the carnage is carried out by relatively young people, much to the shock and shame of their parents and, in turn, she poses the question, “Since when, in any society, have young people ever listened to their elders?”

Mumtaz Hakim has a considerable back-story which will be familiar to those who have read previous books in the series. For newcomers, the grim events are described with a deft touch which tells the reader everything they need to know, while enabling that part of the plot to simmer away nicely in the background. This is a gripping read which will entertain and cause nails to bitten to the quick. It also raises some significant questions about British society. Bright Shiny Things is available now in all formats.

 

ON MY SHELF … January 2017

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With due apology to the wonderful Andrew Marvell and his timeless poem To His Coy Mistress, (surely the best collection of chat-up lines ever penned) I have this to say;

Had I but world enough and time,
This reading pile would be no crime.
I would sit down, and think which way
To read, and pass my idle day.

The fascinating books just keep on coming, and the latest batch are all too typical of the amazing quality and variety of crime fiction books which are out there, just waiting to be read.

quicksand025With a father, Leif Gustav Willy Persson a Swedish criminologist and novelist who was a professor in criminology at the Swedish National Police Board, it is hardly surprising that Malin Persson Giolito should be drawn to the world of crime. Not only is she a lawyer, but has a growing reputation as a writer of crime fiction. Her latest novel, Quicksand, will be released in March/April of this year. Published by Simon & Schuster and translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles, Quicksand is the story of Maja Norberg, a teenage girl who has been caught up in one of the worst crimes in recent Swedish history. She has been, in turn, vilified and championed by the mainstream media, but now she is to have her hour – and more – in court. Is she a cold-blooded killer, or a demonised victim of an unspeakable evil?
Quicksand is available for pre-order in all formats.

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barbara_nadelBarbara Nadel (right) is best known for her long running and highly successful crime series set in Istanbul, featuring the established cast of Çetin İkmen, a chain-smoking and hard-drinking detective on the Istanbul police force, and his colleagues Mehmet Süleyman, Balthazar Cohen and Armenian pathologist Arto Sarkissian.

Her series of novels featuring private investigator and ex-soldier Lee Arnold and his assistant Mumtaz Hakim, of which this is the latest has, apart from being excellent thrillers, tackled head-on the sometimes thorny questions surrounding the role of Muslim professional women in the UK’s largely secular society.

Bright Shiny Things couldn’t be more topical. With suspicions of Islamic radicalisation sparking along East London’s Brick Lane like a gunpowder fuse, and Turkey’s border with Syria being one of the most dangerous places in the world, Hakim and Arnold undertake a mission to trace the son of an old military contact of Arnold’s. Has Fayyad al’Barri renounced his family values and thrown in his lot with ISIS, or is the boy a victim of something evan more sinister? Bright Shiny Things will be out in April, and you can pre-order here.

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katherinestansfield_km013Falling Creatures by Katherine Stansfield will appeal to those who like a good period drama, a dead body or two, an atmospheric setting and a sense of Gothic looming over everything. 1844? Tick. Beautiful girl found with throat cut? Tick. Bodmin Moor, beloved of Arthur Conan Doyle and Daphne du Maurier? Tick. Mists, marshes and malevolent men? Tick. The author grew up on Bodmin Moor, and her debut novel The Visitor, won the Holyer an Gof Fiction Prize in 2014. You can find out more about the author (pictured left) by visiting her website katherinestansfield.blogspot.co.uk.  Due to be published in March by Alison and Busby,  Falling Creatures can be pre-ordered here .

 

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