The Heights by Parker Bilal #BookReview #BlogTour


What starts with the gruesome discovery of a severed head on the Tube soon becomes personal for former DI Cal Drake. 
After one betrayal too many, Drake has abandoned the police force to become a private detective. 
He's teamed up with enigmatic forensic pathologist Dr Rayhana Crane and it's not long before the case leads them to the darkest corners of the nation's capital and in dangerously close contact with an international crime circuit, a brutal local rivalry and a very personal quest for retribution. 
With the murder victim tied to Drake's past, his new future is about to come under threat.

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for The Heights today. Many thanks to Parker Bilal, Black Thorn Books and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for sending me a copy of the novel.

The second book in Parker Bilal's Crane and Drake series, The Heights sees the main characters - Cal Drake and Rayhana (Ray) Crane embarking on a new venture as private investigators. There is plenty of back story here but I have no doubt that those who have read the previous novel, The Divinities will have some advantage over those of us who are newcomers to the series, however, it can still easily be read and enjoyed as a standalone story.
The book opens with what would appear to be a familiar scene as a harassed young mother tries to juggle her baby and her restless little boy, Tyler on a packed Tube, under the watchful eye of her fellow commuters. Tyler, it has to be said, is the sort of child most people dread being near on public transport and the exhausted Ruby almost welcomes his interest in an abandoned IKEA bag when it distracts him from his previous activity of constantly kicking her legs. Her relief is short-lived however, when the bag reveals its gruesome contents and a severed head, wrapped in cloth and newspaper rolls under the feet of the horrified passengers. 
Meanwhile, Drake and Crane are with a prospective new client, although Drake's instant dislike of celebrity author Marco Foulkes means they are soon in danger of losing him. Ray Crane is understandably concerned that her new partner's inability to put his personal feelings aside will lose them business but suspects that her long-term links to Foulkes will see him return. He has come to the fledgling agency due to his concern over the disappearance of Howeida Almanara, a young post-grad student from Kuwait. Despite the age gap, it would seem that he and Howie were involved and he suggests that her controlling, jealous uncle may be behind her disappearance. They accept the case despite their reservations but as they begin to investigate, Crane is forced to confront her strained relationship with her eccentric father, Sir Edward Crane, who we learn was one of the architects behind the infamous dodgy dossier that led to Britain's involvement in the Iraq War.
The Heights finds both main characters involved personally as well as professionally with their investigations as the newspaper the severed head is found wrapped seems to be sending a clear message to Drake. He left his former role as a detective inspector in the Met under a cloud and although there was never enough evidence to convict him of any wrongdoing, there are still those - most notably DCI Pryce - who remain convinced of his guilt. It's perhaps fortunate then that Pryce suspects there will be little chance of a murder conviction and so hands over the case to Drake's sympathetic former colleagues, Kelly Marsh and Milo Kowalski. Realising the significance of the newspaper and hoping that he will be able to cast some light on the case, they form a mutually beneficial, albeit unofficial alliance.
The relationship between the two main characters is an interesting one; their strengths and indeed flaws, complement one other but there is still a hesitancy between them and they are not yet sure how far they are able to trust their partner. Drake previously worked as an undercover officer, infiltrating an organised crime gang and became close to an informant, Zelda. Despite the promises he made, he was unable to protect her and she was brutally murdered. Now seeking some form of resolution and atonement for the mistakes he made, he has to confront his memories as he comes face to face with some powerful and unpredictable criminals once more. He was wrongly accused of corruption but has clearly always struggled with authority and the glimpses into his difficult upbringing reveal a troubled past. As Crane delves into white-collar crime involving financial irregularities and money laundering, she is also still clearly tormented by her past, particularly the loss of her mother in Iran and her father's role in her death. 
London is rightly celebrated for its diversity but its criminal element is international too and the global nature of both the wealthy and seedier parts of the underbelly are explored here. The drugs, prostitution and people trafficking might be the violent side of organised crime but those who deal in high-end fraud are perhaps not so far apart and Drake and Crane both find themselves in peril as the tension increases considerably towards the end of the book. 
The Heights is a meticulously crafted, slow-burning gritty thriller; it should come as no surprise that Parker Bilal also writes literary fiction as Jamal Majoub and his wry, perceptive observations ensure that London itself almost becomes another character in the novel. This is a compelling, intricately plotted book which rewards readers with its thoughtful character development and complex storylines. The burgeoning trust between the two main characters is fascinating to follow and with no firm resolution to one of the cases, the conclusion is a mouthwatering enticement to read on. I'm looking forward to it!

The Heights is published by Black Thorn Books, a imprint of Canongate. Purchasing links can be found here and it can also be bought from Hive or from independent bookstores.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Parker Bilal is the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub, the critically acclaimed literary novelist. He is the author of the Makana Investigations series, the third of which, The Ghost Runner, was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. The Divinities, the first in his Crane and Drake London crime series, was published in 2019. Born in London, he has lived in a number of places, including the UK, Denmark, Spain and, currently, the Netherlands.


  1. Huge thanks for the blog tour support Karen x

  2. Great review. I have some of Parker Bilal's books in my TBR pile and looks like I need to start reading.


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