My #BlogTour #Review of, Faking Friends by @JaneFallon #NewRelease @penguinrandom by @annebonnybook

*I received an arc via the publisher in return for an honest review*
I have just realised via a diary mishap, that I have mixed up the dates 11th & 12th January. My apologises to the author, publisher and publicist. 

cover
Faking Friends by Jane Fallon
Synopsis:
Amy thought she knew everything there was to know about her best friend Melissa. Then again, Amy also thought she was on the verge of the wedding of her dreams to her long-distance fiancé.

Until she pays a surprise trip home to London. Jack is out, but it’s clear another woman has been making herself at home in their flat.

There’s something about her stuff that feels oddly familiar . . . and then it hits Amy. The Other Woman is Melissa.

Amy has lost her home, her fiancé and her best friend in one disastrous weekend – but instead of falling apart, she’s determined to get her own back.

Piecing her life back together won’t be half as fun as dismantling theirs, after all.

My review:

Faking Friends is an unusual novel for me to read. I rarely read contemporary fiction, based on modern day relationships.
But with this novel, I was looking forward to reading something different. I regularly jump between novel genre’s.
I was drawn to the psychological element of the synopsis.

Aspiring actress Amy, returns to London to surprise fiancé Jack. Unbeknown to her, the surprise will be on her! As she arrives to find a woman’s things in her place, in her flat.
And not just any woman’s things, the items of her best friend Melissa……..

I was immediately drawn to the WOW factor of a shock surprise, of the ultimate betrayal. Amy is left devastated, how could her best friend from childhood betray her? How long has this love affair been going on? Why would Jack do this to her?

Amy cannot bring herself to face up to the answers to these questions. At least not just yet! She begins to plot her revenge. What follows is a toxic friendship on full display.
Amy’s inner-feelings of hurt at the betrayal are moving, you get a real sense of a woman in deep emotional pain.
A woman scorned…….

As Amy comes to terms with the mess, that is her life. We learn that Mel is an extremely vicious woman. Who will destroy anyone or anything, to get what she wants.
I took an immediate dislike to Mel and her selfish behaviour. I felt myself, become more and more drawn into the plot. Almost as if I was on Amy’s side cheering her on!

‘There is nothing left to salvage in either of these relationships. There’s nothing to mourn the loss of because they weren’t the real people I thought they were’

This isn’t just a story of revenge and the emotional damage of cheating. It also shows a woman, determined to pull her life back together.
To start again and in turn, become a new woman! 4*

Jane_Fallon_HP
Jane Fallon
Author links:
Website: http://www.janefallon.co.uk/
Twitter: @JaneFallon

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#Review #StreetsOfDarkness & #GirlZero by @aadhand and Q&A @penguinrandom

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Streets Of Darkness By A.A Dhand
Synopsis:

Luther meets The Wire, this is the first Detective Harry Virdee novel

The sky over Bradford is heavy with foreboding. It always is. But this morning it has reason to be – this morning a body has been found. And it’s not just any body.

Detective Harry Virdee should be at home with his wife. Impending fatherhood should be all he can think about but he’s been suspended from work just as the biggest case of the year lands on what would have been his desk. He can’t keep himself away.

Determined to restore his reputation, Harry is obliged to take to the shadows in search of notorious ex-convict and prime suspect, Lucas Dwight. But as the motivations of the murder threaten to tip an already unstable city into riotous anarchy, Harry finds his preconceptions turned on their head as he discovers what it’s like to be on the other side of the law…

My review:

I have had this novel in my sights and on my kindle for quite some time. When I was unable to attend Harrogate this year my blogger friend Sarah (ByTheletterbookreviews) got me a signed copy! Which I was super grateful to receive! However, it wasn’t until I started to read it I would become aware of exactly how grateful I was!

The novel opens in Bradford, the darkness of the city and the troubled times it has been through is fully explored. If you didn’t know Bradford’s dark past before reading, you certainly will afterwards. I myself hail from the t’north of England, from Burnley to be precise. Yet there were things I learned within the novel that I had not previously known. This literally is northern crime fiction at its finest!

DI Harry Virdee is the protagonist, suspended from work and facing an IPCC investigation. He is a broken man seeking to restore his reputation and some form of redemption. His wife Saima is pregnant with their first child and their relationship is extremely complex. Harry being from a traditionally Sikh background, although he follows no faith now. Saima being from a traditionally Muslim background and a believer in Islam herself. Their families have disowned them, considering their union as impure. They must start their family with virtually no support, Harry’s brother Ronnie being the only family member still willing to talk to the young couple. I instantly warmed to Harry and saima and found their relationship to be one of exceptional depth and the themes of religion fascinating.

Harry leaves in the early hours, for a jog in Lister park. The park is soon to be hosting an Asian Mela, a three-day cultural event and this with Eid approaching. Only this day proves to be anything but holy, when Harry stumbles across a dead body in the park…. The dead body isn’t just any man, it is Shakeel Ahmed a successful businessman and newly elected MP. Shakeel has been crucified, with a swastika carved into the middle of his chest and the words “Christ died for our sins; he died for this”.
With Shakeel being a known devout Muslim it is safe to assume this murder is a hate crime.

Detective superintendent George Simpson (Harry’s boss pre-suspension) head of the (HMET) homicide and major enquiry team, asks Harry for a favour. He asks Harry to track down Lucas Dwight, his blood having been found at Shakeel property. Lucas has recently been released from prison and was previously the leader of the BNP for Bradford. He is an addict, a fascist and has just been released after a 14yr stretch inside. He is the prime suspect. George warns Harry that if Lucas isn’t located soon. It could have a political backlash and the reoccurrence of the race riots of 1995 and 2001.

In the background to this, a local man named Colin Reed sets to use the murder to his advantage by ordering Martin Davis (current leader of the BNP) to plan a riot to coincide with the Asian Mela. But who is Colin Reed and what is his agenda? Also what benefit does it set for Martin Davis to see Bradford set alight? Bashir Iqbal also becomes liberated with the death of Shakeel. As he is freed from a promise he made to Shakeel, when he was alive. A promise that has links to a wrong from the past. Bashir wants his vengeance and has waited 40yrs for this day. I instantly feared Bashir and found his whole demeanour, of one of an angry, riled man. But I was desperate to know the secret from his past and what drove him this way.

Harry instantly seeks out his brother Ronnie. Ronnie being no stranger to prison himself, has previously served 5yrs in jail. He warns Harry to leave it alone and we also become aware Harry is not allowed any contact with his niece of nephews. The theme of family and honour is interwoven brilliantly throughout the novel. Harry’s shunning from his community and the role of redemption on the human conscience.

Harry finally locates Lucas Dwight, after some classic old fashioned detective work. It is this moment that the novel explodes from the page!!!!!!!!!!
Lucas is not the man, Harry was led to believe. Lucas warns Harry he is being ‘fitted up’ and there are bigger things brewing in Bradford. Harry is unsure what to believe, but upon learning that Lucas has now converted to Islam. Harry starts to wonder if Lucas is on to something. Lucas and Harry now become the unlikely duo, set to solve this mystery and prevent Bradford escalating into chaotic violence……….

This novel has themes of corruption, politics, racial tension, Bradford villians, grudges, BNP politics, dirty cops, revenge and redemption. All rolled into one hell of a read! It is most definitely one not to be missed.
5* Genius

Q&A:
*This Q&A was written after I read/reviewed #StreetsOfDarkness but before I had read/reviewed #GirlZero, for clarification.

Q) For the readers, can you give a summary of yourself and your Harry Virdee series?

A) I’ve been writing since 2006 and had many rejections and setbacks before being signed with Transworld in 2014. I wrote 1.2 million words before finally creating the right mix of characters, story and drama with Streets of Darkness. I wanted a character who may be Asian but is fiercely British, patriotic and a force to be reckoned with as there were no characters like Harry and Saima Virdee in crime-fiction.

        My journey to becoming a writer started in my parent’s corner-shop in Bradford. As a twelve-year old, I would sneakily watch the certificate 18 thrillers. One evening I selected “The Silence of the Lambs” and it was the only movie I could not finish. I was too scared! But that weekend, on my usual weekly visit to Bradford Library, I saw the novel by Thomas Harris and had never realised movies could be adapted from books. I borrowed the book and whereas I could not finish the movie, I did finish the book and my love-affair with crime-fiction was born! I simply could not a believe a novel could take me to such extremes of emotion and yet, keep me turning the page! I wanted to do that…

Q) After finishing this novel, which left me on quite the cliff edge! My first thoughts were of disbelief that this is a debut novel!!! I know the journey to publication can be extremely difficult for novels of a diverse nature. What was your experience of the path to publication?

A) I studied pharmacy at university but my love was for writing. In 2004 I started writing my first novel and finished it in 2006. It was a real mess! I spent 2 years editing it and trying to make it coherent and in 2008 signed with a literary agent. I worked hard on the manuscript but it simply wasn’t good enough. In 2011 I took a break from writing and came back to it in 2013 and wrote another book called “Field of Blood”. It was rejected by my agency so I left to find another agent. At the same time, I won a writing competition called “Crimeandpublishment” run by Graham Smith – a renowned book reviewer. Off the back of that, I signed with Simon Trewin at WME agency. Buoyed at securing a new agent, I returned to my first novel and re-wrote it in six weeks. That novel became Streets of Darkness and was sold to Transworld in an exclusive deal.

Q) The novel has many themes, the cultural aspects between Harry and Saima. What was the inspiration behind this?

A) I had read many non-fiction stories about inter-faith drama and racism within Asian communities and always felt disheartened and depressed after reading them. I wanted to explore this theme but in a manner which whilst emotionally engaging, also made the reader root for Harry and Saima and never look on them with pity. They are fierce, loyal and determined to win this battle of cultures and it also allows me to take readers in a world they are unfamiliar with.

Q) The characters are so very cleverly written, I actually found I warmed to Lucas Dwight and his predicament. The characters were constantly evolving throughout the novel. Did you plan this, or did they evolve as you wrote the plot?

A) I planned it! Nobody is “all good” or “all bad”. Life doesn’t work that way. Even the vilest human beings have had relationships, experienced love, loss, highs and lows. So, to take a character and create apathy and understanding and subvert reader’s expectations is very much an active process and I do with both Lucas and Bashir. It makes them three-dimensional.

Q) One of the themes, I love in a novel, is the theme of personal redemption. It is in one of my favourite of all time Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. What was your inspiration behind this theme?

A) I think a lot of life is about redemption both positive and negative. Also, it layers the characters, their motivations and gives them a real driving force. Attaining “justice” whether legally or illegally is a fascinating topic.

Q) The character of Bashir, starts off with a shocking scene and he is overall quite menacing and scary. But then when I got to the end, I had one of them moments where I totally ‘got it’. I don’t want to create spoilers, but have to ask, was that always planned from the beginning?

A) Yes, it was planned. There is nothing greater I find than writing menacing, frightening character and then right at the end, twisting their tale and subverting the readers previous POV. I love that! For me, Hannibal Lecter is the best example. So dangerous, so terrifying, yet his relationship and obsession with Clarice give us a complexity to his character which conflicts with our earlier total disdain.

Q) The ending was intense, left the novel right open and literally rolls right into #2 Girl Zero. This was expertly crafted! I read the introduction to Girl Zero and now face the agonising wait to get my copy. Do you yourself enjoy a dramatic ending in a novel? And what are your favourite novel endings?

A) My favourite novels and ending are:

“Before I go to Sleep” by SJ Watson – quite simply, the greatest debut I have ever read with the mother of all twists. I will never forget that twist – truly amazing.

“The Collector” by Robert Fowles. A classic with an ending which never leaves you and a truly incredible plot.

“The Surgeon” by Tess Gerritsen. The queen of crime-fiction and this book frightened and thrilled me in equal measure and for me, Tess is the greatest crime-writer of the modern era – her plots are meticulous and I have NEVER figured out her twists ahead of time. My all-time favourite author.

Q) finally, will there be a #3 in the DI Harry Virdee series? Are we allowed any snippets of information?

A) Give me a breather! Haha. Yes there will be a third book. A book which brings all the threads of the first two together. Snippets of information? Hmmm…

#teamHarry or #teamRonnie

There can only be one…can’t there?

*Huge thanks to the author A.A Dhand for taking part in a Q&A on my blog. I wish you every success with you writing career. 🙂

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Girl Zero by A.A Dhand
Synopsis:

There are some surprises that no-one should ever have to experience. Standing over the body of your beloved – and murdered – niece is one of them. For Detective Inspector Harry Virdee, a man perilously close to the edge, it feels like the beginning of the end.

His boss may be telling him he’s too close to work the case, but this isn’t something that Harry can just let lie. He needs to dive into the murky depths of the Bradford underworld and find the monster that lurks there who killed his flesh and blood.

But before he can, he must tell his brother, Ron, the terrible news. And there is no predicting how he will react. Impulsive, dangerous and alarmingly well connected, Ron will act first and think later. Harry may have a murderer to find but if he isn’t careful, he may also have a murder to prevent.

My review:

After being absolutely blown away by The Streets Of Darkness, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next novel in the series. I managed to order a signed copy via Goldsboro books! (Love Goldsboro books). The first in the series ended in a dramatic climax and I was looking forward to how Harry vs Ronnie would play out as the series develops.
I was not going to be let down……

Detective Inspector Hardeep ‘Harry’ Virdee is awoken at 03:50am and summoned to a murder scene. Upon arriving at Wapping school, he discovers this young female victim has been fatally stabbed. When he examines the body closer he recognises the gold bangle on her left wrist, a kara bangle, a sign of Sikhism. But when he gets a closer look at the victims face, he discovers it is his niece Tara. With her father, Harry’s brother Ronnie being Bradford’s most powerful criminal and the head of a drug cartel. This is going to get very real and very dangerous quickly. Knowing Ronnie will rush to take justice, into his own hands Harry must solve the case fast!

Harry hasn’t spoken to his parents, since they disowned him for marrying outside of his culture. They believe his wife Saima a Muslim, to be the devil herself and stubbornly refuse to have anything to do with them or their new baby Aaron. Now Harry must break the news to the family, whom hate him! He arrives at the family home, as they celebrate Diwali. He is greeted by his mother Joyti and sister in law Mundeep with utter contempt. But it is Harry’s father, who falsely blames Harry for the death. Which makes for quite painful reading, to see his rejection so openly on the pages…………..
“If I had known I would have to suffer seeing your face, in this house, on this day, I would have wished my own death”

On the other side of Bradford local criminals Ali Kamran, Billy Musa and Riz Khan are operating a trafficking network. Selling young girls to the highest bidder. Ali suffers from vitiligo and is considered a curse in the Asian community. He recalls in his thoughts, his mother mocking and ridiculing his condition and her shame and misfortune at bearing such a son. Ali stalks Harry’s house and it is at this point the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Will he hurt Saima? Or Aaron? Who is really in-charge of the trafficking ring? Who is the boss? Is it Ronnie?

Harry discovers that Tara has recently moved out of her parent’s house and rejected their culture also. This explains why the family hold Harry responsible. But why did Tara reject her culture? Harry searches her house and comes to a few conclusions. Either it is her connection to her father, a crime of passion or Tara is not as innocent as everyone thinks? It becomes clear that Harry has met secretly with Tara in the 4 years that they have been estranged but not recently. Harry recalls being the first one to hold her in her first 20 minutes of life. He also recalls what things were like at home, before he was disowned. As a reader you long for harry to be reunited with his family, but you also know, it is highly unlikely. In the search of Tara’s, Harry discovers a diary with some sketchy information. With added pressure from Ronnie for updates, Harry really has his work cut out for him.
Then Harry receives a call, a call that will blow the case wide open…………

This novel covers the murder of Harry’s niece and how that plays into a local trafficking ring. It has themes of revenge and honour. But also of family shame and the crosses we bear for those we love. It also accurately explains how trafficking rings, operate under the secrecy demanded by powerful individuals. As crime reads go, this series is gearing up to be one of my favourite.
The mix of crime and culture, makes for an intriguing, yet educating read! 5*

AAD
A.A Dhand
Authors links:
Web site: https://www.aadhand.com/
Twitter @aadhand

*Signed copies still available at Goldsboro books here: https://www.goldsborobooks.com/author/a-a-dhand

#BlogTour #GuestPost 5* #MiniReview #HalfASixpence @Eviegrace2017 @arrowpublishing

Half a Sixpence - Evie Grace - blog tour
Half A Sixpence by Evie Grave

Synopsis:
True love sometimes comes at a price

East Kent, 1830

Catherine Rook takes her peaceful life for granted. Her days are spent at the village school and lending a hand on her family’s farm. Life is run by the seasons, and there’s little time for worry.

But rural unrest begins sweeping through Kent, and when Pa Rook buys a threshing machine it brings turbulence and tragedy to Wanstall Farm. With the Rooks’ fortunes forever changed, Catherine must struggle to hold her family together.

She turns to her childhood companion, Matty Carter, for comfort, and finds more than friendship in his loving arms. But Matty has his own family to protect, and almost as quickly as their love blossomed their future begins to unravel.

With the threat of destitution nipping at her heels, Catherine must forge a way out of ruin . . .

#MiniReview:

This is Debut novel, that opens in 1830 Kent. The characters are from all walks of lives and the poverty of 1830 is explored fully. Your heart begins to warm to the individuals and you feel invested in their journeys throughout the novel.
Last year I read the entire series of Poldark and I was absolutely gripped and I would say this is extremely similar. The characterisation is massively on point, fans of Poldark will LOVE it!
I loved the use of relevant terms for the era ‘gallivantin’ etc.
The peace and tranquillity of Overshill is atmospheric at the beginning and I also felt jealous of Catherine’s simple farm life. but then I discovered that in 1830 social hierarchy is everything!

There are some subtle theme of politics, power, charity and it is rich in historical accuracy. Catherine’s Pa was in instant favourite of mine, holds strict socialist values,  before socialism was a political movement! highly recommend to fans of novels in the saga or historical fiction genre. 5*

Guest Post: Character Profile Matty Carter

I’m delighted to join you for today’s stop on my blogtour with Half a Sixpence, the first book in a new series, a Victorian family saga. It’s the story of Catherine Rook, a country girl born in East Kent in 1817. She grows up in Overshill with her best friend, Emily, and the other village children, including the mischievous Matty Carter.

I’d love to tell you a little more about him.

I was inspired to write about Matty by my family tree in which there are several farm labourers, including one who worked on the land until he was one hundred years old, a fact that I found recorded in a cutting from a local newspaper.

Matty Carter came from a poor family who inhabited a tumbledown cottage near Catherine’s home, Wanstall Farm. He lived with his ma, pa and several siblings with whom he shared a bed, topping and tailing with them, or taking turns to sleep. They would leave their boots filled with grass to absorb moisture and smells, under the porch that was held up with a chestnut pole.

As a boy of fourteen, he had a reputation for upsetting the girls at the local dame school with mice and slowworms, and he was looked down on for going around Overshill in raggedy clothes. His brown hair stood up on end like a stook of corn, the bridge of his nose was spattered with freckles and his cheeks were always smeared with dirt.

His father was a farm labourer and Matty took after him, starting out in work at nine years old as a bird scarer when he’d work from dawn till dusk, chasing the birds off the seeds in the fields by blowing a whistle, and hurling stones. When he was older, he became a ploughboy, walking up and down the furrow with the horses. He played the fiddle and sang with his father and brothers who were often worse for wear at the local church every Sunday in return for a few extra pennies. He collected honey from the woods and filched bits and pieces that he found lying around to support the Carters, but in spite of the family’s efforts, they were always short of money, a problem made worse by his mother’s chronic illness that kept her bed-bound.

In spite of their lowly situation, Matty and his family were proud people. Matty had a clear sense of justice and followed his heart. He usually did the right thing, but sometimes went about it the wrong way.

Determined to better himself, Matty had ambitions to rent a few acres of land and become a sheep farmer in the future, but when the rural idyll of East Kent was thrown into unrest with the arrival of mechanisation on the farms, his plans were thrown into disarray.

I hope you enjoy reading about Matty in Half a Sixpence.

x Evie

EG
Evie Grace
Author Bio:

Evie Grace was born in Kent, and one of her earliest memories is of picking cherries with her grandfather who managed a fruit farm near Selling. Holidays spent in the Kent countryside and the stories passed down through her family inspired her to write Half a Sixpence.

Evie now lives in Devon with her partner and dog. She has a grown-up daughter and son.

She loves researching the history of the nineteenth century and is very grateful for the invention of the washing machine, having discovered how the Victorians struggled to do their laundry.

Half a Sixpence is Evie’s first novel in her Maids of Kent trilogy. Half a Heart and Half a Chance will follow.

Authors Links:
Via Publisher:  https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/evie-grace/1079654/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8637801.Evie_Grace
Twitter: @eviegrace2017

 

 

#BlogTour, Debut novel: You Don’t Know me by Imran Mahmood 5* Genius – Review and Q&A.

Super, super excited to kick off the blog tour for this novel. I actually read this whilst staying in London, taking my daughter to London fashion week. Every so often I would pop up from reading and say to my daughter “I think this one, will win an award or two”. It really is that good! I can’t recommend this highly enough and it is one of only 9 books so far this year to make the 5* Genius list!

Blog Tour Banner The synopsis:

An unnamed defendant stands accused of murder. Just before the Closing Speeches, the young man sacks his lawyer, and decides to give his own defence speech.

He tells us that his barrister told him to leave some things out. Sometimes, the truth can be too difficult to explain, or believe. But he thinks that if he’s going to go down for life, he might as well go down telling the truth.

There are eight pieces of evidence against him. As he talks us through them one by one, his life is in our hands. We, the reader – member of the jury – must keep an open mind till we hear the end of his story. His defence raises many questions… but at the end of the speeches, only one matters:

Did he do it?

My review:

For a long time, I have been screaming for more diversity in novels and more novels that actually represent a society I live in! Well Imran Mahmood, very much delivers with his debut novel! I am aware, as is the author, (See author’s note) that some people may accuse him of using stereotypes but I discredit this on the basis that the facts, out-there exist. They indicate exactly what is explained & expanded upon in the novel. I would urge any reader put off by any such comments to give it a go. Because I think the novel will more than surprise you with its emotional and intellectual depth.

Imran Mahmood is a criminal Barrister and I have a daughter who has had a deep desire to be one and has for a very long time. My daughter often points out to me the law & justice are not about whether you did the crime or not. It is about what can be proved in court! This novel also details the currents legal system and that justice should be delivered equally. Juries are intended to be a group of the defendant’s peers, yet time & time again the system fails young men and in particular young men of the BAME community. When I read novels, to review, I keep notes. With this novel I had overall 57 points notes and a separate list of Jury notes. This novel will place you firmly in the place of a Jury member & it is one case you will NOT forget!

The novel opens up as the defendant (we never learn his name) stands accused of shooting & murdering a young gang member named Jamil. This seems an open & shut case based upon the scientific & circumstantial evidence. However, right at the last moment the defendant sacks his lawyer and proceeds to give his closing speech which in turn, is his side of the story and the basis of this novel. There are 8 pieces of evidence stacked against the defendant and my initial thoughts were that he is guilty, that is, until he begins his speech. The speech is incredibly moving and I truly felt sorry for the narrator’s plight. He comes across as another young, vulnerable black male trying desperately to navigate his way through the gang culture, degradation & low prospects that north London & Camden town has to offer him. He talks of a childhood marred by domestic violence & a broken home, with little hope. But despite this, he is aware that he is surrounded by strong & caring women, whom he strives to protect.

The novel has brilliant characterisation, all of the characters have huge detail and background story’s, of how or why they came to be involved in the case. There are many moving themes such as: loss of boyhood in adolescent due to growing up way too quickly, the degradation of drug addiction, the dangers/risks of knife crime and the harshness of criminal sentencing, is well & truly rammed home. Yet the characters are likeable and believable. The characters Curt for example reminded me of someone I personally grew up with. Who was heavily bullied, despite his huge size, yet refused categorically, to fight back! The gang mentality is a heavy theme within this novel the structure & hierarchy of gangs, yet there are moments, of great wisdom such as: “people don’t just want to pick fights that they can win, they want to pick fights that they can win easily” and my personal favourite “book people are weird, trust me”. This novel merges the old skool gangs with the modern technology assisted, legal savvy, youth of today! It depicts how one man, namely the defendant can be a magnet for trouble and be chewed up & spat out by the gang’s influence!

I absolutely loved this novel. I found it to be raw, urban and edgy! Like nothing on the UK book market currently. It depicts life lessons and a different perspective. Essentially you can engage with a novel where people may not look like you or live like you, yet you fully embrace their character.
If only we gave real people, this level of understanding in society! 5* Genius!

Q&A:

  Q) For the readers, can you give a summary of yourself and your novel?

A) I’m a barrister by trade (over 25 years now!) and my novel opens with a young defendant on trial for murder. He has just sacked his barrister (at the point of closing speeches) and now has to do his closing speech himself. The novel is his speech and in it he takes the reader through all the evidence that is against him and attempts to explain it all away! The reader is in the position of a juror and the defendant addresses the reader directly.

 Q) Diversity in reading is all out ‘must have’ for me. I am a huge fan of a wide range of authors who write diverse characters such as Joe Ide, Walter Mosley and M.P Wright. I love books that reflect that actual society I live in and characters from all walks of life. Majority of the authors whom write diverse novels are from the USA. So for me it was brilliant to see You Don’t Know Me in the British crime fiction genre. What are your thoughts on diversity in reading? Also in the genre of crime fiction?

A) Wanting ‘diversity’ in culture is really just a way of saying that we want our perspectives to be broader and more generous. It is crucial in my opinion for under-represented classes to be identifiable in wider culture. If people can recognise themselves in the arts, in media, in literature, they begin to feel invested in society. And the same is true in reverse. The more difference that we are exposed to regularly, the less we will identify it as difference. All people become part of our identity. Part of the problem of gangs is this lack of identity in the wider culture and a lack of a stake in society. I wanted to people in YDKM to think about the people they ‘DON’T KNOW’ and see what they could do to know them better.

 Q) As I was aware when reading the novel, you are a criminal barrister by profession. The novel is legal centred, putting the reader almost as if a member of the jury. What was the inspiration behind this? Does being in the legal profession generate a multitude of plots?

A) Most people are fascinated by the criminal justice system. There is so much at stake usually, not least the liberty of the individual. And whilst many people are fascinated by the jury system most will never serve on a jury. I wanted to give the reader an idea of what it might be like to serve on a jury and to get a taste for the kind of dilemmas that an ordinary jury faces in an ordinary case. There are very rarely any ‘easy’ cases. Most have loose ends and this feeling of never being able to know everything is at the heart of the juror’s dilemma. I also wanted to explore the nature of truth. If I don’t believe what you tell me – does that make it untrue? If not, how does the ability to persuade factor in a qualitative assessment of truth? Is there something more important than legal relevance? The protagonist in YDKM was telling us that for him it was more important for him to be understood. Was he right?

Being a barrister does not for me generate plots but it does help me to look at peoples lives in a unique way. I see people in times of high tension and often in dire need. I see their lives and their motivations and I feel privileged to be able to do so. So although it doesn’t give me endless plots, it allows me to be connected to peoples lives that are very different from mine. I think it tethers me to realism in a way that otherwise I couldn’t replicate.

 Q) One thing I absolutely loved about your novel, was that it asked the reader to think of life from someone else’s perspective. It was very cleverly done on both an emotional level and an intellectual level. What was the idea behind this? Why did you decide to include this theme?

A) I have always thought (and taught) that a good closing speech should tackle every case on at least 3 levels, on a legal level, a logical level and on an emotional one. I wanted the defendant to use the same linguistic tools that a criminal barrister might use and see what happened. In his case, his strongest argument was the emotional one and I wanted to see whether if he could connect with the reader on an emotional level, the reader might begin to react to him in a way that surprised him/her.

 Q) What are your favourite reads, in childhood, teenage years and adulthood?

A) As a child I loved Enid Blyton. Even when she wasn’t specifically writing about something magical or fantastical her books always had a feeling of otherness for me. She spoke about things which might have been ordinary to a lot of people but were completely new to me. In the Famous 5 stories she spoke about boarding schools (what are they?) cottages (I had never seen one), fields, rowing boats, wells, meadows. All kinds of things that I had never experienced. For me the magic was right there, in the lives of these characters that were so different from my Liverpool childhood.

In teenage years I found and fell in love with To Kill A Mockingbird. There’s nothing more to say about that. It, for me, is perfection.

And in adulthood I found myself digging into Donna Tartt, Kazuo Ishiguro, Vikram Seth, Yann Martell, Amin Maalouf and so so many others. I’ve recently read the brilliant Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing – what a talent!
*Huge thanks to Imran Mahmood for joining in with a Q&A with my blog.

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Photo credit: Bill Waters

Authors Links:
@imranmahmood777
https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/imran-mahmood/127292/
http://darleyanderson.com/authors/imran-mahmood

The novel is available via pre-order on Amazon and released on 4th May 2017.