Brothers In Blood
***WINNER OF THE CWA DEBUT DAGGER***
(Previously published as Western Fringes)
A Sikh girl on the run. A Muslim ex-con who has to find her. A whole heap of trouble.
Southall, West London. After being released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders’ yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put the past behind him.
But when Zaq is forced to search for his boss’s runaway daughter, he quickly finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge.
With time running out and pressure mounting, can he find the missing girl before it’s too late? And if he does, can he keep her – and himself – alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead?
I was immediately drawn to this novel, due to its diverse characters and recognition via winning a top book award. The simple sentences of: A Sikh girl on the run, a Muslim ex-con and the location of Southall, West London.
Had me knowing this was going to be one hell of a read!
The novel opens with Zaq working on the building yard for Mr Brar, we meet his thuggish sons Parminder (Parm) and Rajinder (Raj). When Mr Brar blackmails Zaq into finding his daughter or going back to prison, by means of a ‘stitch up’. Zaq becomes and instant private investigator. The Brar brothers have a violent and nasty reputation in Southall, so the biggest struggle Zaq faces is if he can keep them off his back and out of his business, as he desperately attempts to locate the missing girl.
Surinder known as Rita, appears to have vanished due to threats of an arranged marriage. Zaq is unsure if this is by means of force and this adds depth to the surrounding drama and mystery. Is Rita a victim, fleeing her abusers? Rita is one of many young women and men, that are a new generation, within the Asian community, who may hold differing the values and beliefs to their elders such as parents and grandparents. They like Rita may reject the tradition of arranged marriage or similarly like Zaq may reject the notions of religion. I think this is interesting, on so many levels. It makes the novel perfect for book groups, where debate and discussion is encouraged.
As this novel, underneath its tough crime fiction shell, has layer upon layer of culture and depth.
Zaq begins his investigation and we meet people from Rita’s life and also those within Zaq’s friendship circle. The characterisation is brilliant and there is such a variety of characters within the cast. You love some and hate others! Zaq really has his back against the wall, with continuing and growing threats and intimidation from every angle. He has to find Rita and he has to find her FAST………….
The novel is scattered with Punjabi phrases and I think that really added to its uniqueness. It sets it poles apart from the mainstream offerings, on the crime fiction shelves, at your local Waterstones. There are themes of honour/shame within the Asian community and the divisions within the different religions such as Sikh, Muslim and Hindu. We learn of Zaq’s past and how he hopes to turn his life around and the evolving change within the Asian community, the break from tradition. Action, crime and culture blended together to create, this unique and unforgettable novel.
This is urban, this is diverse and this is brilliantly British! 5*
***Link to author Q&A below***