Source: Review copy
Publication: 5th April 2018 from HQ
A dead girl.
A wall of silence.
DI Maya Rahman is running out of time.
A headmistress is found strangled in her East London school, her death the result of a brutal and ritualistic act of violence. Found at the scene is a single piece of card, written upon which is an ancient Buddhist precept:
I shall abstain from taking the ungiven.
At first, DI Maya Rahman can’t help but hope this is a tragic but isolated murder. Then, the second body is found.
Faced with a community steeped in secrets and prejudice, Maya must untangle the cryptic messages left at the crime scenes to solve the deadly riddle behind the murders – before the killer takes another victim.
There is a confidence and style to Turn A Blind Eye that belies its status as a debut novel. Assured writing like this is quite special, especially in a first book. I loved the protagonist Maya Rahman, because I believed in her.
The sense of place and of people created by Vicky Newham is so strong and vibrant that I had no difficulty in visualising her characters, whether at home or at work. There are, of course, backstories to each of her main characters, but these are simply part of who they are and what has shaped them. Perhaps they will return to those in future novels, perhaps not. But we now we have rounded characters with complex lives and that really helps to establish them in our mind’s eye.
Newham’s familiarity with the East End and its people shines through; this is a multicultural London where cultures mix, clash and intertwine and not everyone has the confidence to understand how to approach the questions and sometimes the problems this can throw up.
In Tower Hamlets, the school is just getting over the recent suicide of a pupil when a new teacher to the school literally stumbles into the Head Teacher’s dead body during a power cut. DI Maya Rahman, who knows this school well, is from and of this community having lived most of her life here after her family fled from Sylhet in 1982, is just back from her brother’s funeral in Bangladesh and is handed the case though she is still grieving.
Working with a new DS, Dan Maguire, an Australian who has come into the station with a fast track to promotion, Maya finds that this case is not one that is easy to understand or solve. Dan Maguire provides a refreshing foil to a serious Maya and his Australian humour helps to lighten up some dark moments.
This school is an important part of the community; in many ways it is the bridge between the different cultures and religions, though most share the same poverty. So the eyes of the local media and of the community leaders are focussed on the success of Maya’s investigations. So when the next victim is also part of the school, and a different Buddhist precept is found, the pressure is really on Maya.
This is a rich and textured experience that really cries out to be read and appreciated. Maya is a sharp and focussed Detective who has been on the receiving end of more than her fair share of racism and sexism, so she’s nobody’s fool.
Turn A Blind Eye is deft, well plotted and propulsive as well as being very well written. It’s a bloody brilliant read and an absolutely cracking start to a new series that I have already put on my must read list.
About Vicky Newham
Vicky Newham grew up in West Sussex and taught Psychology in East London for many years, before moving to Whitstable in Kent. She studied for an MA in Creative Writing at Kingston University, where she graduated with distinction.
You can follow Vicy on Twitter: @VickyNewham
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