A SIKH GIRL ON THE RUN. A MUSLIM EX-CON WHO HAS TO FIND HER. A WHOLE HEAP OF TROUBLE.
Southall, West London.
Recently released from prison, Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders' yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put his past behind him.
But when he has to search for his boss's runaway daughter it quickly becomes apparent he's not simply dealing with family arguments and arranged marriages as he finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge.
With time running out and pressure mounting, can he find the missing girl before it's too late? And if he does, can he keep her - and himself - alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead?
If you like gritty action, sharp dialogue and pacy plotting, then you'll love this award winning action thriller from Amer Anwar.
I was delighted when Amer Anwar contacted me to ask if I'd like to read his debut book, Western Fringes. I always enjoy discovering new authors and with Western Fringes having won the prestigious CWA Debut Dagger Award, I suspected I was in for an enjoyable read.
I wasn't wrong, Western Fringes gripped me from its opening few pages and despite being a fairly long read never lost pace or focus. The book opens with Zaq Khan called in see the owner of the builder's yard where he works. Recently released from prison following a five year sentence and as the only Muslim in a company owned and run by Sikhs, he fears the worst and assumes he may be out of a job. The worst turns out to be far more troubling than sudden unemployment; Mr Brar informs him he has to find his runaway daughter, Rita, and if Zaq even thinks of refusing he will find himself back in prison, framed for strealing from the family firm. It appears that Rita has fled an arranged marriage and her father and two brothers, Parminder and Rajinder are determined that she should be found swiftly to avoid their family being shamed in the community. it quickly becomes apparent however, that this is far more than a family argument and before long Zaq's life is in real danger.
Throughout the book Zaq is an engaging and likeable protagonist, he wrestles with his conscience when he realises to protect himself he may have to return Rita to a dangerous situation and though we, the readers may hope desperately that he makes the right decision, we fully understand and sympathise with the moral quandary he finds himself in. His relationship with his best friend, Jags is one of the highlights of the book, the affection between the two characterised by their mutual name-calling and teasing but their bond means Jags is prepared to support his mate, whether that's with cups of tea and painkillers or as his partner in a risky stakeout. Zaq finds himself in numerous fights and though his years in prison mean he has learned to take care of himself, he receives some punishing blows and we realise that despite the lighter moments with Jags, he isn't playing a game, he has become involved in a shady underworld that could result in deadly consequences. The violence is brutal and one scene in particular is difficult to read, I would caution anybody who is of a more sensitive disposition as the treatment meted out to one character is truly shocking. However, it's equally important to note that it never feels gratuitous, Zaq's enemies are dangerous killers and there should be no ambiguity as to what they're capable of and what both Zaq and Rita are at risk from.
The setting for the book, Southall plays an important part in the story, both the streets themselves and the tensions and camaraderie between the Asian community who lived there. There is real honesty about Western Fringes, the depiction of diverse cultures and the divisions between them give a real sense of the challenges of living in an urban Asian community. I loved the sprinkling of Punjabi words throughout the book, the frequent (and mouthwatering!) descriptions of food, the music blaring from car stereos, all combining to bring to life the atmosphere of the area. Western Fringes is one of the most descriptive books I've read in a while, we learn even the tiniest minutiae sometimes of Zaq's day, even down to the order he eats his KFC meal in, yet this never detracts from the tight pacing of the plot. Instead it gives the book an almost televisual quality as we feel we are there with Zaq, observing his every move, his every decision, as he uses his fast talking and quick thinking skills to figure out how he is going to extricate himself from the nightmare situation he finds himself in. The book eventually builds to a tense and gripping finale, the twists and often visceral violence meant I truly didn't know how the action would pan out and was completely immersed in this exciting and cleverly plotted urban noir.
Western Fringes is an exciting and fresh thriller, I absolutely loved it and look forward to reading more from Amer Anwar. If you're looking for a book that is action-packed, witty and believable, then look no further.
Many thanks to the author for my copy, received in return for my honest review.
Western Fringes is available on Amazon.
About the Author
Amer Anwar grew up in West London. After leaving college he had a variety of jobs, including warehouse assistant, comic book lettering artist, driver for emergency doctors and chalet rep in the French Alps. He eventually settled into a career as a designer/creative artworker producing artwork mainly for the home entertainment industry. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and is a winner of the Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger Award. WESTERN FRINGES is his first novel
You can follow Amer Anwar on Twitter as @ameranwar and find his website here