Western Fringes – Amer Anwar

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I received this book from the author in return for an honest review.

Set in Southall, London, Zaq Khan is trying to lead a quiet life after being released from prison but his new boss won’t let him. Hired to find the boss’s missing daughter in a week, Zaq is led through London involving blackmail, murder, mystery and revenge. By the middle of the novel it’s not a question of whether he will find her by the end of the week, but whether he can survive the week.

The basic plot of trying to find a missing daughter is complicated as the novel progresses. We learn that not only has she ran away to escape from her brothers but also from an arranged marriage. I have a basic knowledge of how they work but Anwar does a brilliant job of educating without boring down the book with heavy details. They are drip fed throughout into more manageable chunks. Once Zaq learns of this we slowly see his own inner conflict start to rise to the surface as he tries to decide if handing her back would be the best option available. Zaq may not be a truly good character but he is a likable one. He needs to look out for himself more than ever during this novel but he continues to put his life at risk for people he doesn’t know. Not many characters or people I know would do that.

Zaq is a Muslim living with and working with Sikhs in London. Before reading this novel I had no idea about the animosity between the two religions. While I know there are tensions between most religions I was ignorant to how deeply situated this particular tension is. This book does a brilliant job of educating people who may not be aware of such hostility. While it may show the hostility it also shows how some disregard a person’s religion in favour for who they are.

While this book is based in London it brings Zaq’s heritage and life to the forefront. Different languages are used within the novel and while I did not know what was being said Zaq’s reversion to English helped me to gain an understanding of the conversation. This inclusion of language and other cultures really brings the novel to life and has a brilliant sense of verisimilitude. Living in Plymouth I am secluded from a lot of religion and cultures so to gain an understanding through books is a brilliant way to educate myself and others without possibly noticing.

The conclusion is dramatic for a story set in London and pulled off with ingenuity and a lot of luck. While I’m not sure if those actions could have been pulled off in real life Anwar sure and steady writing makes it believable and enables you to have faith in the characters.

Overall I loved the novel. While some parts of the plot seemed slightly far-fetched, Anwar has created a true to London novel which educates while it entertains. If you are looking for a change of pace with mystery/action novels then this is the one for you.

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