Bright Shiny Things

Written by Barbara Nadel

Review written by Gwen Moffat

Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes.

Bright Shiny Things
Allison and Busby
RRP: £19.99
Released: April 20, 2017

“Timely” said the Financial Times when the jacket was designed, and after Westminster and Stockholm this novel is even more topical.

But although the theme is terrorism the focus is less on the lad who has gone to fight in Syria than on those he leaves behind. Fayyad is from a respectable Muslim family who fled the horrors of the Iraq War to find sanctuary in the polyglot society of Brick Lane in London’s East End. Here Fayyad grew up, went to college, became a banker, and disappeared. Now to resurface as an Isis warrior who sends a cryptic gift to his parents, at the same time posting suggestions on the internet that he is in search of a wife.

The parents are convinced that their son is trying to find a safe way to defect from Isis and come home. Desperate to help him they turn to Lee Arnold, an old soldier now a P.I. Although Lee has done a tour of duty in Iraq  he would be clueless in this situation but for  his clever assistant, Mumtaz, a Muslim widow, who suggests that,  in order to discover Fayyad’s intentions,  she should contact him on-line posing as a teenage girl: a  kind of reverse grooming and equally risky.

Contact is established but as a virtual courtship starts, in the real world of Brick Lane, a gay Hindu is murdered. Rajiv was a charming man:  harmless, befriended and even loved  in this community that comprises so many  shades of colour, belief and gender. His death is shocking: of far greater concern than  some puerile internet exchange involving a Muslim widow and a shadowy figure thousands of miles away.

The investigation into Rajiv’s death is headed by DI Montalban, a cynical East Ender;  it’s in his actions  that one starts to sense a link between the crimes, or rather between this murder and a suspicious situation possibly involving terrorism. For Montalban has been keeping watch on Fayyad’s brother, a bachelor host to Syrian refugees: currently two youths who are among the many suspects in the murder.

The suspects are legion. Rajiv had a very private life, and Brick Lane  is not the closed community beloved of crime novelists;  this is an urban village with ties not only of and between extended families  but of strict dues relating to business and contracts, of obligations involving crimes and  debts and honour. And people don’t talk to the police, well aware of the price they may have to pay.

In this book there are innumerable players in several dramas. There are the immigrants, first and second generation; the private investigators with all their dodgy contacts; the police: the plods and the top brass – and finally, those sinister shadows, the spooks.

From the start names are difficult.  A Cast List would have been helpful. It’s advisable to give in: forget the names, read, enjoy and become immersed in a colourful world that’s full of action. There is relief in short episodes:  accept them as bits of a jigsaw and the pattern emerges.    

Nadel wears her heart on her sleeve. She has castigated  sweat shops  and “honour killing”. Her style is appropriate to its place and it improves with time. Here her people speak “Brick Lane” larded with their native accents, solecisms spilling over into narrative, infusing the work with a false naivete that fits the territory. I prefer the bizarre sophistication of Istanbul with the enchanting Inspector Ikmen and his harried colleague Suleyman, but horses for courses.  Enjoy Bright Shiny Things then read A Noble Killing and anticipate  with pleasure what Nadel will do next.

Read Barbar Nadel's feature on this book - HERE


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