Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Review of Brothers in Blood by Amer Anwar (2018, Dialogue Books)

Having served five years in prison for manslaughter, Zaq Khan is working in a builders’ yard run by a Sikh family. When the owner’s daughter goes missing, supposedly run off with a Muslim, Zaq is blackmailed into searching for her. The pressure is turned up a notch by her bullying brothers, who are keen to find Rita before her father. Zak begins his hunt for Rita, starting with her workplace and friends, but he soon realises that there is more to her disappearance than first appears. To make matters worse he’s set upon by two groups of young men, the fighting skills he learned in prison keeping him in one piece. What seemed like a relatively straightforward task becomes increasingly fraught with danger. Moreover, finding Rita is unlikely to lead to safety.

Brothers in Blood is set in and around Southall in West London, its cast the area’s Asian community. Zaq Khan is a young Muslim trying to put his life back together again after serving five years for manslaughter. When the daughter of the Sikh owner of the builders’ yard where he works goes missing, Zak is blackmailed into trying to find her. Refusing an arranged marriage, Rita Brar has supposedly run off with a Muslim; a cardinal sin in the eyes of her patriarch father. Her brothers seem particularly keen to find her. Reluctantly, Zaq sets about the task, using the help of his best friend, Jags, and a local gang of car thieves. It’s soon clear there’s more going on than a young woman trying to avoid a marriage not of her choosing, and Zak’s got bruises from two brawls. Anwar charts Zaq’s quest to find Rita and deal with the wider drama surrounding her disappearance. The writing is a bit flat at times, there’s bit too much tell vis-à-vis show, and a couple of the plot devices felt a bit strained (the blackmail hook and Zaq’s ability to take a beating and also give one). However, this offset by a well-charted plot with some nice intersecting threads leading to a decent denouement, a lot of forward momentum, and nice characterisation. It’s also refreshing to read some England-based crime fiction that’s ethnically diverse. Overall, an enjoyable read with an engaging plot.

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