What is this about?: Harry Virdee is tasked with finding the killer of one of Bradford’s most prominent Asian businessmen, which he finds is a fuse set to burn Bradford to the ground like race riots did a decade or so ago. No pressure then!
What else is this about?: AA Dhand draws a picture of Bradford in all it’s multicultural glory and messiness, using Harry and his Muslim wife as a microcosm for the greater tensions in the city. It’s superb writing that brings a devoted couple and a beautiful city to life in all their glory.
Should you read: Oh yes. Absolutely. This is one of those books in which a city is as much a character in the book as other characters. You don’t often see authors pull this off with such elegance like this.
Blurb: Luther meets The Wire, this is the first Detective Harry Virdee novel
The sky over Bradford is heavy with foreboding. It always is. But this morning it has reason to be – this morning a body has been found. And it’s not just any body.
Detective Harry Virdee should be at home with his wife. Impending fatherhood should be all he can think about but he’s been suspended from work just as the biggest case of the year lands on what would have been his desk. He can’t keep himself away.
Determined to restore his reputation, Harry is obliged to take to the shadows in search of notorious ex-convict and prime suspect, Lucas Dwight. But as the motivations of the murder threaten to tip an already unstable city into riotous anarchy, Harry finds his preconceptions turned on their head as he discovers what it’s like to be on the other side of the law…
A measure of a book’s success I think is when I’m surprised I’m at 70% on my Kindle for it. I had no idea how I got to that point with Streets of Darkness, the debut from author Amit Dhand.
The book opens with the protagonist, Harry Virdee, days from being suspended and losing his job as a cop for beating someone up who insulted his wife, Saima. It quickly becomes apparent that she is his greatest weakness and strength at the same time, and she has a solid presence in the book and the case, which brings their past and their families into the narrative, creating a better picture of Harry and Bradford to an extent as well: Harry is Sikh and Saima is Muslim, and their marriage caused a rift or rather banishment of them both from their families. This is indicative of the large divides in Bradford, which are a running theme in the book.
Despite his suspension, his boss Simpson asks him to investigate the death of a prominent Asian businessman and politician off the books as Harry is renowned for having excellent sources. It would, Simpson says, guarantee him a free pass through the investigation into his actions and probably a promotion. Simpson is days from retirement, and with this death knows chances are high that Bradford will experience the likes of the race riots from years before. And, blood evidence has already provided them with a culprit: one Lucas Dwight, a man Harry arrested years before and was just released from prison is to blame for the murder.
Except, things are never that simple, and quickly Harry and Lucas find themselves investigating the murder and who is setting Lucas up. This is the beginning of a larger story involving politics and Bradford’s simmering cultural tensions, that Dhand establishes will come to a head at a religious festival in only a few days. As this occurs over only a few days, and establishing the festival as a deadline for events in the book, Dhand maintains a tension through the narrative, steadily growing until it’s ready to boil over at the end of the story during the festival.
Harry and Lucas are far more alike than they realise. Both are hot headed, with tempers that are easily frayed and both determined and ruthless in their own ways. Dhand establishes too that if things had gone differently for Harry, he could have been a Lucas Dwight.
Misdirection is a running theme in this novel, expertly applied through various plot points until you begin to see the bigger picture. There are surprises here, for readers and Harry, that are quietly revealed and pack the punch of a fist to the liver, which as you’ll learn reading this, hurts.
The book is diverse, celebrating the Sikh and Muslim cultures and practices, which is a welcome change to stories like this. Bradford itself is a character in this book, one that Dhand creates in intimate detail, as he, like Harry lived and grew up in Bradford, working at his family’s corner store. There’s love here for Bradford, for the good and the bad.
What do you think of Streets of Darkness?