I Know What I Saw by Imran Mahmood – Review

About The Book

I saw it. He smothered her, pressing his hands on her face. The police don’t believe me, they say it’s impossible – but I know what I saw.

Xander Shute – once a wealthy banker, now living on the streets – shelters for the night in an empty Mayfair flat. When he hears the occupants returning home, he scrambles to hide. Trapped in his hiding place, he hears the couple argue, and he soon finds himself witnessing a vicious murder.

But who was the dead woman, who the police later tell him can’t have been there? And why is the man Xander saw her with evading justice? 

As Xander searches for answers, his memory of the crime comes under scrutiny, forcing him to confront his long-buried past and the stories he’s told about himself.

How much he is willing to risk to understand the brutal truth?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I always enjoy a book with an unreliable narrator and Xander, the lead character in this novel, was more unreliable than most. Every time I thought I found an explanation for what happened to the woman I was proved wrong.

Xander is living on the streets. Thirty years earlier he had an extremely comfortable life but turned his back on all of it.  Choosing a life of solitude and hardship over friends and comfort. It is only as you get into the second half of the novel that you even begin to understand the reasons why. Life on the streets is definitely one of the strongest and more thought provoking aspects of this novel. I had no idea what methods people who were unfortunate to live this way used to keep themselves warm. All of the novel made me think about the many reasons some people have to live on the streets. 

He was an extremely complex character. He somehow came across as independent but also needy. Probably due to his childhood, the death of his brother and his devotion to the ex girlfriend he still loved. Even as more about his life was revealed I felt that there was always something kept hidden from the reader but also from himself. Almost like he was unwilling to remember.

The details of what he saw were slowly revealed but there were plenty of twists. A few of these I will in no doubt be thinking about over the next few days, questioning whether my understanding was correct. 

Imran Mahmoud will be participating in First Monday Crime, – June alongside Jo Spain, Dorothy Koomson and Patricia Marques. As usual you can watch this on their Facebook page on Monday 7th June at 7.30pm

The Cookbook Of Common Prayer by Francesca Haig – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

When Gill and Gabe’s elder son drowns overseas, they decide they must hide the truth from their desperately unwell teenaged daughter. But as Gill begins to send letters from her dead son to his sister, the increasingly elaborate lie threatens to prove more dangerous than the truth. 

A novel about family, food, grief, and hope, this gripping, lyrical story moves between Tasmania and London, exploring the many ways that a family can break down – and the unexpected ways that it can be put back together.

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I wanted to read this book as soon as I read the synopsis, it sounded so different to the books I usually read. I know, after finishing it, that it will be one of those books that I will be thinking about for a long time.

A family who are grieving, where each family member is grieving  in their own way. Gabe is in England, where Dougie died, trying to understand why. He spends hours on the internet looking at equipment, the rescuers,similar cases and drinking heavily with Rosa who was Dougie’s girlfriend and who was rescued from the cave where Dougie died. Gill is trying to convince herself and her desperately ill daughter Sylvie that Dougie is still alive by writing him letters. And she is cooking some unusual dishes and making them extremely personal. Teddy is grieving alone. Trying to support his mother and sister, missing his father and brother and convincing an oblivious PapaBee to help him. 

Whilst I had a lot of sympathy for all of them it was Teddy who touched my heart. Always having to fight a lot more for attention when life was normal it was even harder for him with a brother dead and a sister who would prefer to be. He is determined to find out why Sylvie was refusing to eat and whilst he seems to be failing she is listening and it is evident that she was a lot stronger than her parents think. 

I also had a lot of appreciation of the storyline involving PapaBee. It was easy to see his confusion and the chaos it caused but I felt that his situation was handled with a lot of honesty and I could visualise clearly the sometimes humorous, sometimes worrying scenes.

It could have been depressing but it wasn’t. Instead it felt like an honest approach to grief with the memories, acceptance and guilt at occasionally being able to laugh or for a few minutes have what seems to be a normal day.

Absolutely wonderful, I have no hesitation in recommending this book to everybody.

Diving For Pearls by Jamie O’ Connell – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

A young woman’s body floats in the Dubai marina. Her death alters the fates of six people, each one striving for a better life in an unforgiving city.

A young Irish man comes to stay with his sister, keen to erase his troubled past in the heat of the Dubai sun. A Russian sex worker has outsmarted the system so far – but will her luck run out? A Pakistani taxi driver dreams of a future for his daughters. An Emirate man hides the truth about who he really is. An Ethiopian maid tries to carve out a path of her own. From every corner of the globe, Dubai has made promises to them all. Promises of gilded opportunities and bright new horizons, the chance to forget the past and protect long-held secrets.

But Dubai breaks its promises, with deadly consequences. In a city of mirages, how do you find your way out?

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Diving for Pearls is a novel about a crime but is completely different too many of the others that I have read. In this novel the crime, the death of a young Emirati woman, is very much in the background. Instead the focus is on those who are linked by her death. Either as a brother, friend, lover or the handful of people who have only had a tenuous link. The story is told by all of these, and also by a couple who never met her, but were connected through other people.

Most of the novel takes place in Dubai, but there is also an Irish link. These parts felt quite refreshing, amusing and heartwarming after reading about the methods used by the police as they tried to find out who had killed the daughter of an extremely wealthy and powerful local. The methods that the police used when questioning the people they had decided were involved in the death were horrifying. I felt that they needed to be seen to be doing something and the easiest and most preferable option was that the person responsible was somebody from another country.

I have only ever seen the airport in Dubai and I remember being fascinated by the what you could buy there. From the description of the malls I had the feeling that this was life for some in Dubai, if they were lucky enough.But you also see how much of it was a sham. Many people run out of money and just leave what possessions they cannot carry. The people who have come into the country for work have their passports taken and can’t leave again. If things go badly wrong their embassies won’t help them. They are often with employers who mistreat them, poor wages, or differing types if abuse. Gete was lucky in some ways, others in the novel, like Tahir and Lydia were not as fortunate.

The Motive by Khurram Rahman – Review – QuickReads 2021 and The Reading Agency.

About The Book

A Jay Qasim short story and prequel to EAST OF HOUNSLOW written for Quick Reads 2021

Business has been slow for Hounslow’s small time dope-dealer, Jay Qasim. A student house party means quick easy cash but it also means breaking his own rules. But desperate times lead him there – and Jay finds himself in the middle of a crime scene.

Idris Zaidi, a Police Constable and Jay’s best friend, is having a quiet night when he gets a call out following a noise complaint at a house party. Fed up with the lack of excitement in his job, he visits the scene and quickly realises that people are in danger after a stabbing.

Someone will stop at nothing to get revenge . . .

About The Book

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. I have never read any of this series of books but have heard a lot about it. This prequel, published as part of the brilliant Quick Reads initiative worked perfectly. I will definitely be reading more of this year’s selection.

It introduces you to Jay, a small time drug dealer and his friend Idris who is a police constable. You wouldn’t expect this friendship to survive their career choices but it does. It is brought under strain though when they both attend a house party, Jay dealing in drugs and Idris dealing with a noise complaint which then becomes much more serious.

The storyline is believable. I can imagine situations like the one described but it isn’t over powering, there is plenty of opportunities to get to know the characters as well. I would like to know if any apart from Jay and Idris appear in the series. One in particular, who did make me cringe a little, is a character I can see huge potential for.

For such a short novel, a little over 100 pages it certainly packs a lot in and has definitely inspired me to read East of Hounslow, the first full length novel in the series. 

About Quick Reads

Quick Reads, a programme by The Reading Agency, aims to bring the pleasures and benefits of reading to everyone, including the one in three adults in the UK who do not regularly read for pleasure, and the one in six adults in the UK who find reading difficult. The scheme changes lives and plays a vital role in addressing the national crisis around adult literacy in the UK. Each year, Quick Reads commissioning editor Fanny Blake works with UK publishers to commission high profile authors to write short, engaging books that are specifically designed to be easy to read. Since 2006, over 5 million books have been distributed through the initiative, 5 million library loans (PLR) have been registered and through outreach work hundreds of thousands of new readers each year have been introduced to the joys and benefits of reading. From 2020 – 2022, the initiative is supported by a philanthropic gift from bestselling author Jojo Moyes.

This year’s short books include

– a dark domestic thriller from British Book Award winner Loiuse Candlish ( The Skylight) who thanks readers for setting her on the right path when she was ‘young and adrift’

–          an uplifting romance by the much-loved Katie Fforde (Saving the Day), who never thought she would be able to be an author because of her struggle with dyslexia

–          the holiday from hell for Detective Roy Grace courtesy of long-time literacy campaigner and crime fiction maestro Peter James (Wish You Were Dead)

–          a specially abridged version of the feminist manifesto (How to Be a Woman) by Caitlin Moran: ‘everyone deserves to have the concept of female equality in a book they can turn to as a chatty friend.’ 

–          an introduction to Khurrum Rahman’s dope dealer Javid Qasim (The Motive), who previously found the idea of reading a book overwhelming and so started reading late in life, to find ‘joy, comfort and an escape’  

–          Oyinkan Braithwaite’s follow-up to her Booker nominated debut sensation My Sister, the Serial Killer – a family drama set in lockdown Lagos (The Baby is Mine)

The Pact by Sharon Bolton – Blog Tour Review.

About The Book

A golden summer, and six talented friends are looking forward to the brightest of futures – until a daredevil game goes horribly wrong, and a woman and two children are killed.

18-year-old Megan takes the blame, leaving the others free to get on with their lives. In return, they each agree to a ‘favour’, payable on her release from prison.

Twenty years later Megan is free.
Let the games begin . . . 

My Review

With thanks to the publisher for the copy received. Sharon Bolton is an author whose books I have enjoyed for many years. The Pact is her latest standalone novel that features some thoroughly unlikeable characters. But there are also a few where my opinion changed as I read and who I actually started to have sympathy for. 

When a group of friends have a party the night before they receive their A Level results they have no idea that their antics will have an impact on them for many years to come. I won’t go into detail about what occurred apart from to say that lives were lost through a foolish and irresponsible act and Megan for reasons known only to herself decided to take the responsibility and eventually serve a long a long stretch in prison. But before she did she let her friends know that one day she would need and expect them to help her or face consequences. And now the time has come when they find out what she wants. They soon realise that they could have possibly been in a better situation if they had come forward at the time. Megan’s demands are eye watering!

But whilst Megan obviously suffered during her time in prison they also did. None of this group have coped well or are as happy and settled with their lives as they could have been. So her reappearance and demands tip them over the edge and it doesn’t take long for them to fall apart. I found it fascinating to see how they reacted and also to see who showed any amount of genuine remorse. 

Often jaw dropping as the group’s personalities are revealed, especially when they are told what is expected of them and I loved every page. I couldn’t wait to watch them self destruct and who, if any, would become a better person. There will probably be differing views on who deserves a second chance, there were two who I felt worthy.

Another great book from an outstanding author.