Published by Dialogue Books,
24 September 2020.
ISBN: 978-0-349-70034-2 (PB)
The author of Brothers in Blood, the winner of the Crime Writers Association
Debut Dagger Award (for the review see the Mystery People website), has
returned to Southall and to his duo, Zaq (Zaqir Khan), still driving a van for
a firm of building suppliers, and Jags (Jagbir Kholi). Zaq is a Muslim and Jags
a Sikh but despite the long-running antipathy between the two communities,
they, having been at school together and then university, are firm friends so
when Jags calls on Zaq for help regarding a family problem, Zaq answers the
The problem is
Jags’s uncle Lucky (Lakhbir), a highly successful businessman but desperately
unlucky at cards, who has managed to lose his wife’s really valuable emerald
and diamond necklace in a game of poker. Lucky is desperate to get the necklace
back before his wife finds out but the man to whom he lost it, a Mr Shergill,
has refused to return it even when offered in cash the money which Lucky had
bet. Zaq is more than willing to help his mate. But then Zaq has much worse
news which affects him personally: his young brother Tariq has been viciously
attacked and is in hospital, unconscious and with life-threatening injuries and
for the moment this takes priority. Zaq discovers that there may be a link
between the attack and a big wedding at which Tariq and a friend were DJ-ing
some weeks previously.
Jags, being Zaq’s
friend, is ready to help Zaq to find out the facts behind the attack on Tariq
while in return Zaq is prepared to help Jags. The two of them find themselves
embroiled in what appear to be two separate pursuits but could there after all
be links between those pursuits? The two friends pursue the truth of both
conundrums with persistence and courage, even putting their own lives at risk,
and revealing a number of secrets to keep which others are prepared to kill. In
the end Zaq cleverly constructs a trap into which the perpetrators fall, but
finds the outcome is not what he wanted.
This is a vivid
and convincing picture of life in this self-contained community in a west London
suburb in which the author grew up, the members of which are determined to sort
out their own problems for themselves by the means, even if somewhat violent,
that seem most effective to them. A reader may ask where, in all this, are the
police? Apparently, there had been at one time good relations between the
police and the local community but in recent years drastic cuts to police
manpower in the borough had adversely affected those relations.
between this and the previous book is that, unlike Brothers in Blood where the storyline was based around women, there
is little room for women in this story. The two girls in Brothers in Blood do return to the scene and Zaq has a growing
fondness for Nina in particular. However, another girl, the hairdresser Sharan
who was at the wedding, does provide a link between what had appeared to be two
separate story lines, that of Jags’s uncle Lucky and that of Zaq’s brother
Tariq. What is enjoyable is the firm friendship between Zaq and Jags, often
expressed in ribald terms but nonetheless rock-solid.
I am definitely looking
forward to the next episode in the tale of the two Likely Lads of Southall. Recommended
Reviewer: Radmila May
Amer Anwar grew up in West London. After leaving college he had a variety of jobs, including warehouse assistant, comic book lettering artist, a driver for emergency doctors and chalet rep in the French Alps. He eventually landed a job as a creative artworker/graphic designer and spent a decade and a half producing artwork, mainly for the home entertainment industry. He holds an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and is a winner of the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award. Western Fringes was his first novel.
Radmila May was born in the U.S. but has lived in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice. Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional work for them including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of her late husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published late 2015. She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal flavour to two of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a third story is to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology – and is now concentrating on her own writing.