Young Mr. Dhand has a lot to answer for in my view. It is (almost) exclusively down to him that I have been distracted from my own shabby attempts at writing and, instead, have been absorbed in the world he has created in his debut novel.
Despite being born abroad and spending my early years elsewhere, I count myself as a Bradford chap – my mother’s side of our family is Bradford born, bred and dead (indeed, buried at one of the settings from this superb novel), my sister and her children live a mile or so from the centre and I have been a fervent fan of the city’s football team since I moved near to the area in the late 1970’s – and, as a regular visitor to the city, I am familiar with its landmarks, people and life. However, AA Dhand, has led me to a dirty, unpleasant and violent side of the city. He shows us the scary side of the city, the one filled with dangerous, dark souls and which, were I not being safely guided through it by DI Harry Virdee, I would feel terribly ill at ease exploring.
This is a fast paced crime thriller that positively snaps along and it leaves you gasping as you turn the pages and are drawn ever deeper into the murky underbelly of a city riven with division and mistrust. But, out of the shadows and dark streets of Dhand’s Bradford, his vividly drawn Gotham City, comes Harry, our very own Dark Knight.
So, to the plot.
Harry discovers the crucified body of a prominent Asian businessman and, despite being suspended from duty, is tasked with tracking down the killer and solving the racially motivated crime. He faces a race against time as unseen forces conspire against him and racial tensions threaten to tear the city apart. Additionally, his wife is due to give birth to their first child at any moment. The pressure is on and Harry is thrust into a frenzied fight to save his career, his city and his family.
Harry is estranged from his Hindu family following his marriage to Saima, a Muslim, and has to battle religious intolerance and fight to overcome his own demons. He is a complex character, we see several sides to him on this engaging first encounter, and I feel we have a lot more to learn about Harry as his journey continues.
This is an absolutely terrific read; it has been on my radar to read for a short while now and, prompted by the author appearing at the recent Bradford Literature Festival, I took the plunge into his dark Bradford. Now, after safely surviving the first Harry Virdee novel, I am looking forward to being led, very soon, back onto his streets of darkness.