A GIRL ON THE RUN. AN EX-CON TASKED WITH FINDING HER. A WHOLE HEAP OF TROUBLE.
Southall, West London… Ex-con Zaq Khan is lucky to land a dead-end job at a builders’ yard. All he wants to do is keep his head down and put his past behind him.
But when he’s called on to find his boss’s runaway daughter it quickly becomes apparent things aren’t quite what they seem and pretty soon he’s caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge.
With time running out and pressure mounting, can he find the missing girl before it’s too late? And if he does, can he keep her – and himself – alive long enough to deal with the people who want them both dead?
I love it when I pick up a book with absolutely no idea what to expect and it then turns out to be a cracking thriller that I would probably never have discovered if it hadn’t been drawn to my attention.
From start to finish this book had me hooked. Amer Anwar writes with such verve, pace and total authenticity that it is a dream to read.
Zaq Khan lives and works in Southall and has recently been released from prison after serving a full 5 year sentence. He is working as a delivery driver and general dogsbody for a local Sikh businessman in the construction industry, Mr. Brar. The only Muslim in the company, Zaq is looked down on by everyone who works there and his life is no bundle of joy.
We don’t hear until later in the book what Zaq has done to earn his jail time, but Zaq is a cocky and endearing character who is immediately likeable. He is used to living on his wits and we learn that he survived his time in prison by keeping fighting fit and always being alert and on his toes.
When Mr Brar summons Zaq to his office, he has no idea what is in store for him. Brar tells him that his daughter Surinder, is missing and that he needs Zaq to find her and bring her back. It’s not so much that Brar will reward Zaq for his success; rather he makes it clear that should Zaq fail, he will not hesitate to use lies and deception to have him sent back to jail.
To make matters worse, Mr Brar has two nasty thugs for sons. Parminder and Rajinder, who have a reputation for being violent bullies, are also keen to find their sister, who prefers to call herself Rita, and they make it clear to Zaq in forceful terms that they want to know before Mr Brar, just as soon as he has found her.
With not a great deal of information to go on, Zaq teams up with his pal Jags to try and track Rita down. The Zaq and Jags pairing is a complete delight. Two good pals who spark off each other, their banter is highly entertaining and though this is often a violent and troubling story, the humour and warmth of the dialogue between this pair keeps shining through.
An unlikely investigator, Zaq uses all his contacts to try and locate Rita. It seems that she may have been running away from an arranged marriage and there is also a suggestion that she was involved with someone her parents and brothers did not approve of. But the story isn’t quite as simple as that…
Poor Zaq gets punched and kicked across London in his endeavours to avoid being fitted up for more jail time. But when, as he surely must, he tracks Rita down, he’s going to be between a rock and a hard place when it comes to Mr. Brar and his sons.
Western Fringes brilliantly evokes contemporary Asian life in west London with fascinating detail and themes of asian culture, arranged and forced marriage and disputes between cultures and religions that resonate throughout this multi layered and intense thriller.
Western Fringes won the CWA Debut Dagger Award and rightly so. Amer Anwar is a fresh and original voice with a great ear for dialogue and a brilliant sense of humour. Peppered with Punjabi phrases, this book is also the only thriller I have read where my mouth was constantly watering at the frequent references to fantastic Asian food. I’d love to see some recipes in the back of the book if it gets a reprint!
I really thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’d not hesitate to read another by this highly talented author.
Honestly, go buy it – links below!
Western Fringes was published by Edurus Books on 31 May 2017
About Amer Anwar – @ameranwar
Amer Anwar grew up in West London. After leaving college he had a variety of jobs, including; warehouse assistant, comic book lettering artist, a driver for emergency doctors and chalet rep in the French Alps. He eventually landed a job as a creative artworker/graphic designer and spent the next decade and a half producing artwork, mainly for the home entertainment industry. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London and is a winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. More here.