- Published: 07 December 2019 07 December 2019
This award-winning debut novel from Amer Anwar had me hooked from the start. It tells the tale of Zaq’s search for his boss’s daughter who has run away to escape an arranged marriage. Not a trained investigator, Zaq seems an unlikely choice for this task. He is the only Muslim working for a family of Sikhs and not long out of prison, so Mr Brar threatens to frame him for theft and send him back to prison if he does not comply.
Right from the start he is hampered by not having all the facts. It gradually emerges that this is about much more than a runaway daughter – drugs, kidnapping and armed robbery combine to put Zaq’s life in serious danger. Every time he thinks he is making progress in the investigation, a new twist sends him off in a completely different direction. Zaq is subjected to several brutal beatings but gives as good as he gets, having learned to take care of himself in prison. The violence never seems gratuitous but part of the world he is now involved in.
The relationship between Zaq and his friend Jags is a joy to behold; their support of each other and humorous banter provides light relief from the dark conspiracy they are being drawn into. By the time we find out why Zaq went to prison, we have already seen his true nature and are on his side.
The characters are well written and the dialogue is convincingly realistic. The sense of place in the sights, sounds and smells of this area of South London is very vividly evoked. This would be great as a film or TV series, making a refreshing change from the many formulaic programmes currently on our screens. It is hard to believe that this is his first novel as it seems so assured.
Thanks to the author for providing a free copy of his book that I review as part of Rosie’s Book Review Team.