Book Review: The Khan by Saima Mir

My lovely wife is as bad as me for bookshop browsing. Even though we both have a pile of unread books, last Saturday we exited Waterstones with a new book each. The new book that I had acquired was The Khan by Saima Mir, reviewed below.

Today I picked up two books from a charity shop, one a Jack Reacher book by Lee Child and the other one of the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, combined price £2.50. They also had The Testaments by Margaret Attwood for £1, which was a shame as I had only just bought it second hand online. We really should browse the many charity shops in Lancaster more often.

Back to the book review. “Be twice as good as men and four times as good as white men” is how Jia Khan has lived. Jia is a highly successful lawyer in London, often representing criminals and their associates, one of which is an Eastern European drug smuggler and all round crime lord. She manages to defend one of his cousins, and she does it by being the archetypal ‘nasty’ lawyer.

A year later Jia finds herself back in her home town of Bradford for the wedding of her younger sister. 14 years have passed since she was last in the family home. Her father, Akbar Khan, is the boss of another organised crime syndicate, with his rule often being violent and bloody. When he is murdered, Jia is offered the opportunity to follow in her father’s footsteps.

The book is fairly slow moving, with many flashback chapters where we find out about a younger Jia, her brothers and her son. The book also details life for many Pakistani’s born and raised in the UK, where justice is often very different for them, than it is for whites. It also looks at how a woman could cope thrust into a very male dominated world.

It is a very powerful book, full of twists and turns, with some very nasty characters, and Jia is not the most innocent of people. One analogy of this is that at the start of the book she is a vegan, but by the end she is tucking into traditional meat dishes. The book slows down for a few chapters about two thirds of the way through, but this mirrors the battle between the two crime syndicates in the city. It isn’t a secret that the other crime syndicate is the same Eastern European from earlier in the book. There are also a couple of reveals at the end of the book which I hadn’t guessed, but definitely adds to the whole story and how the characters behave.

I gave the book 4 stars, which I thought was fair, although the average is 3.6, which I think is a little harsh. A unique thriller set in a city where thrillers are not usually set, with characters that are not generally well represented in crime fiction. A very accomplished debut novel.

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