Turn A Blind Eye by Vicky Newham
Right image – Hardback cover
Left image – NEW paperback cover
A dead girl.
A wall of silence.
DI Maya Rahman is running out of time.
A headmistress is found strangled in an East London school, her death the result of a brutal and ritualistic act of violence. Found at the scene is a single piece of card, written upon which is an ancient Buddhist precept:
I shall abstain from taking the ungiven.
At first, DI Maya Rahman can’t help but hope this is a tragic but isolated murder. Then, the second body is found.
Faced with a community steeped in secrets and prejudice, Maya must untangle the cryptic messages left at the crime scenes to solve the deadly riddle behind the murders – before the killer takes another victim.
Turn a Blind Eye is the first book in a brand-new series set in East London and starring DI Maya Rahman.
DI Maya Rahman is a breath of fresh air, she brings a diverse edge to crime fiction and paints the picture of a truly modern London. I think the author has done an outstanding job, of covering various aspects of a diverse society. At times it is hard to believe this is a debut novel, as it is so incredibly well put together.
The first novel in the Maya series, centres around a case involving a strangled headmistress, in East London. The novel has added depth, by the bizarre and ritualistic elements attached to the case. Cryptic messages, prejudice and community secrets all play their part in making Maya’s case, a tough one to crack.
The novel opens at kala Uddin mosque in Bangladesh, December 2017. Maya is attending the funeral of her brother Sabbir.
We become aware he was burned alive in his flat. But are unsure why/how.
His death is an emotionally charged mystery, right from the opening pages.
‘Sabbir has endured a lifetime of anguish and was gone forever’
After returning to the UK, Maya quickly becomes aware of the case of the murdered head teacher. Fearing press intrusion and the investigation being turned into a sham. She agrees to return to work a day early from her leave.
Maya makes her way to the crime scene.
At the scene Suzie James, press nosey parker from the Stepney Gazette, is quick to fire off questions. Giving Maya little time to be brought up to speed. It would appear Maya was correct in her earlier predictions; the press is out for blood.
Maya is met by DS Maguire a new detective with the MET and a fast-tracked officer. His lack of experience shows, and it falls to Maya to show him the ropes. At the scene Dr Clark talks them through the victim’s presentation. The head teacher appears to have been strangled, it is a disorganised crime scene and she shows signs of defensive wounds. There are no signs of sexual assault and the motive for the attack is unknown. The head teacher has had her wrists bound, post death. The detectives are baffled as to why? It is at that point, they notice the ancient Buddhist precept left by the body.
‘Adinnadanna veramani sikkhapadam samadyani’
‘I shall abstain from taking the ungiven’
The cops interpret the note to mean that the victim may have taken something without any desire for thanks or for no benefit. But what/how/why? Remains a mystery.
Was the head teacher involved in some form of coercion, manipulation or exploitation? If so where is the evidence?
The head teacher presents as living the perfect life, prior to death. She had been a fundamental part of turning the failing Mile end high school around. She is well liked and respected in the community and worked well to unite the various cultures. Her husband is left so devastated at the news of her death, he has to be sedated.
Who wanted this woman dead and why?
‘People can be extremely good at keeping secrets when they need to be’
The novel has flashback scenes to Maya’s own school days. Coincidentally at Mile End high school. They give an insight into what it would have felt like to be part of a very small minority and referred to as ‘the Bangladeshi girl’. I think this added depth to Maya’s character and added to the whole theme of multiculturalism within the novel.
From further research into the Buddhist precepts, the police team learn that the one left by the victim, is the second precept! How do the precepts relate to the case and what do they mean?
1) I shall abstain from causing harm
2) I shall abstain from taking the ungiven
3) I shall abstain from sexual misconduct
4) I shall abstain from false speech
5) I shall abstain from all that clouds the mind
When the team learn that recently copious amounts of data had been being erased and they also learn the heads ex-husband is a Buddhist, the case really heats up! Everyone’s past will out in this investigation.
The novel is layered with the secrets of the past, I was hooked at reading them and found myself trying to read the book as quick as possible.
A diverse cast, a clever plot and set in the multicultural location of Tower Hamlets, London.
I look forward to the next in the series and wish the author all the best with the release of her debut novel. 5*