I Know What I Saw by Imran Mahmood #BookReview #BlogTour

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?

It is such a pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for I Know What I Saw today. Huge thanks to Imran Mahmood, Raven Books and Tracy Fenton from Compulsive Readers for inviting me and for my sending me a copy of the novel.

Every so often, I come across an author whose writing I immediately fall in love with. I haven't yet read Imran Mahmood's debut, You Don't Know Me but I do have a copy of it and after reading the beautifully affecting, riveting I Know What I Saw, I intend to rectify that as soon as possible.
The central character in I Know What I Saw, Xander Shute is a compelling, memorable protagonist but as quickly becomes apparent, his thirty years living on the streets means he is a man whose mind has become fragile and inconsistent. We realise this right from the start of the book when an altercation over a prime sleeping spot turns violent and Xander is forced to run. A head injury exacerbates his state of confusion but after he seeks shelter in what he believes to be an empty house and subsequently witnesses a shocking murder, his uncertain memories lead to him being forced to confront a past he has been avoiding for years.
He reports the murder to the police but upon investigation, it becomes clear that he is an implausible witness and subsequently, throughout the book, the first-person perspective of this most unreliable of narrators ensures we share his frustration as his memories remain tantalisingly just out of reach while increasingly questioning what his truth really is. We know that he was educated at Cambridge and became a successful investment banker. However, his wealth, good friends and relationship with the beautiful Grace weren't enough to protect him from a tragedy which led to his decision to leave everything behind and become voluntarily homeless. 
I was deeply moved by Imran Mahmood's perceptive understanding of what life on the streets is like; from the practical considerations - assessing which areas are safest, how to maintain some semblance of warmth, where to find food, to the emotional toll of homelessness - becoming invisible or shunned by society, the creeping entrenchment of rough sleeping where eventually a learned fear of other people and being inside leads to claustrophobia and a need to feel grounded on the streets. Xander is perhaps a more acceptable face of homelessness in some respects as he isn't a drug addict or alcoholic but equally, there are those who will find it harder to accept why a man who seemingly had everything would end up living like this.
As the novel progresses, he gradually begins to piece together fragments of his past but although he recalls the troubled, intense relationship he had with his brother, Rory amidst the darker memories of his father, he struggles to remember exactly what he saw when he witnessed the murder. His increasing desperation to discover the truth reveals a man tormented by the brutality of his past and by his daily struggle just to stay alive but determined to investigate and to confront these haunting snatches of memory which may condemn him or set him free. The progressively suspenseful storyline is as moving as it is intriguing and I found it playing on my mind even when I wasn't reading it. 
Such an intensely character-driven story is necessarily slower paced but I Know What I Saw is still a tense, twisting novel with an unflinching, eye-opening sense of place. Beautifully, searingly honest and observant, this powerfully poignant, intelligent thriller surprised and captivated me. Utterly outstanding.   

I Know What I Saw is published by Raven Books. It can be purchased from the publisher's website, bookshop.org, Hive, Waterstones and Amazon but please support independent bookshops whenever possible.

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

About the Author
Imran Mahmood was born in Liverpool in 1969 to first generation Pakistani parents. 
He has been working on the criminal bar in London for over 20 years and regularly appears in jury trials across the country dealing in serious and complex criminal cases.
He now lives in South East London with his wife.