Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
said the Financial Times when the
jacket was designed, and after Westminster and Stockholm this novel is even
But although the theme is terrorism the focus is less on the lad
who has gone to fight in Syria than on those he leaves behind. Fayyad is from a
respectable Muslim family who fled the horrors of the Iraq War to find
sanctuary in the polyglot society of Brick Lane in London’s East End. Here Fayyad
grew up, went to college, became a banker, and disappeared. Now to resurface as
an Isis warrior who sends a cryptic gift to his parents, at the same time
posting suggestions on the internet that he is in search of a wife.
parents are convinced that their son is trying to find a safe way to defect
from Isis and come home. Desperate to help him they turn to Lee Arnold, an old
soldier now a P.I. Although Lee has done a tour of duty in Iraq he would be clueless in this situation but
for his clever assistant, Mumtaz, a
Muslim widow, who suggests that, in
order to discover Fayyad’s intentions, she should contact him on-line posing as a teenage girl: a kind of reverse grooming and equally risky.
is established but as a virtual courtship starts, in the real world of Brick
Lane, a gay Hindu is murdered. Rajiv was a charming man: harmless, befriended and even loved in this community that comprises so many shades of colour, belief and gender. His death
is shocking: of far greater concern than some puerile internet exchange involving a Muslim widow and a shadowy
figure thousands of miles away.
investigation into Rajiv’s death is headed by DI Montalban, a cynical East
Ender; it’s in his actions that one starts to sense a link between the
crimes, or rather between this murder and a suspicious situation possibly
involving terrorism. For Montalban has been keeping watch on Fayyad’s brother,
a bachelor host to Syrian refugees: currently two youths who are among the many
suspects in the murder.
suspects are legion. Rajiv had a very private life, and Brick Lane is not the closed community beloved of crime
novelists; this is an urban village with
ties not only of and between extended families but of strict dues relating to business and contracts, of obligations
involving crimes and debts and honour.
And people don’t talk to the police, well aware of the price they may have to
book there are innumerable players in several dramas. There are the immigrants,
first and second generation; the private investigators with all their dodgy
contacts; the police: the plods and the top brass – and finally, those sinister
shadows, the spooks.
the start names are difficult. A Cast
List would have been helpful. It’s advisable to give in: forget the names,
read, enjoy and become immersed in a colourful world that’s full of action.
There is relief in short episodes: accept them as bits of a jigsaw and the pattern emerges.
wears her heart on her sleeve. She has castigated sweat shops and “honour killing”. Her style is appropriate
to its place and it improves with time. Here her people speak “Brick Lane”
larded with their native accents, solecisms spilling over into narrative, infusing
the work with a false naivete that fits the territory. I prefer the bizarre
sophistication of Istanbul with the enchanting Inspector Ikmen and his harried
colleague Suleyman, but horses for courses. Enjoy Bright
Shiny Things then read A Noble
Killing and anticipate with pleasure
what Nadel will do next.
Read Barbar Nadel's feature on this book - HERE