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Sunday 19 June 2022

‘The Khan’ by Saima Mir

Published by Point Blank,
28 April 2022.
ISBN: 978-086154089-1 (PB)

Jia Khan is the eldest daughter of Akbah Khan, leader of a crime syndicate, which includes a drug cartel, prostitution and money laundering business in the north of England.

The Khan family are Muslims who originated from Afghanistan. Jia is a second-generation immigrant so has been influenced by a mix of cultures in her life. She is also in the unusual position that her father has raised her with the freedoms normally only attributed to boys in her culture. Jia went to university and trained as a lawyer but having fallen out with her family, some 15 years previously, hasn’t seen them since. However, a wedding invitation from her sister brings her home and she meets the son she thought had died as a baby and rekindles a relationship with her estranged husband.

The first half of the book tells the backstory of family history and the Khan’s place in Bradford society. The book explores the roles of women in Muslim society and the contrast between traditional and new ways. When Akbah Khan is murdered, Jia takes up the mantle of running the crime syndicate, which is in danger of being taken over by a rival group led by Andrzej Nowak. Although a woman, Jia becomes the unlikely leader of the jirga (a Pashtun community council) who have their own rules, based on the old ways and mete out violent justice. 

While this is crime novel, it is actually listed on Amazon in categories such as Islamic religion, business, finance and law, and women’s health and lifestyle – rather than fiction. The style of writing is journalistic, almost documentary, with an omniscient viewpoint and a lot of tell rather than show, which makes the reader feel distanced from the action.

In many ways I found The Khan a difficult book to read as I didn’t find any of the characters likeable, empathic or moral and the brutality of the old ways is glorified. This is probably not a book that is going to appeal to everyone, and Amazon reviews are very mixed. That said, The Khan was voted a Times & Sunday Times Crime Novel of the Year and the book is an interesting insight into a small sector of British society that is rarely seen in crime fiction.
Reviewer: Christine Hammercott

 Saima Mir is an award-winning journalist and writer. She has written for The Guardian, The Times, The Independent and The Daily Telegraph, and worked for the BBC. Her work appeared in the anthology, It’s Not About the Burqa in 2019, and The Best Most Awful Job in 2020. Her novel The Khanhas been optioned by BBC Studios. Saima is a recipient of The Commonwealth Broadcast Association World View Award, and The K Blundell Trust Award. Saima’s work has been longlisted for The SI Leeds Literary Prize, and The Bath Novel Award.

Christine Hammacott lives near Southampton and runs her own design consultancy. She started her career working in publishing as a book designer and now creates covers for indie-authors. She writes page-turning fiction that deals with the psychological effects of crime. Her debut novel The Taste of Ash was published in 2015.

 To read a review of A Taste of Ash Click on the title

twitter: /ChrisHammacott
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