It’s publication day for the 2nd in the D.I. Maya Rahman series and I am delighted to welcome her back and to celebrate publication day with this review.
Source: Review copy
Publication: 30TH May 2019 from HQ
When a flash mob on Brick Lane is interrupted by a sudden explosion, DI Maya Rahman dashes to the scene. A fire is raging through one of the city’s most infamous streets, the site of Maya’s childhood home. And the discovery of two charred bodies in the burnt-out building transforms an arson attack into a murder case.
With witnesses too caught up in the crowd to have seen anything useful, Maya is facing a complex investigation without a single lead. And, when reports of a second, even more horrifying crime land on Maya’s desk, it’s obvious there’s more at stake than she could ever have imagined. She must find the answers – before all of East London goes up in flames.
I loved D.I. Maya Rahman’s first outing in Turn A Blind Eye and so eagerly looked forward to more of her East End investigations. I’m delighted to report that Out of the Ashes more than hits the sweet spot.
DI Maya Rahman is a British Bangladeshi, whose family came to the UK in 1982 and settled in Brick Lane. This time Maya is back in the rapidly changing East End, where a fire has broken out, following hard on the heels of a flash mob outside the door of an upmarket new soup shop run by a young married Lithuanian couple.
Among the people who came out to watch the flash mob and some to join in the dancing, was 75 year old Rosa Feldman, a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto, still running the local newsagents in a place where she has lived since her family escaped to Britain at the end of the war.
When the fire has died down sufficiently, two bodies are recovered and arson is determined. Identifying the bodies and finding out why they were killed is a job for Maya, and her team mate Dan.
In Maya, Vicky Newham has created a modern detective who is part of multi-cultural London. A woman who is herself watching as her home patch transitions from Bangladeshi to embrace and be subsumed by other cultures, just as Rosa saw the Jewish community of the East End move out to Golders Green and elsewhere, enabling the Bangladeshi community to settle.
Now the East End is home to a mix of ever changing cultures, some of whom are refugees, each with their own stories to tell.
Against this backdrop, and running alongside a theme of opposition to supposed gentrification of the East End, Maya and Dan must find the perpetrators of more than one gruesome murder.
For me, the characters and their personal stories are what really make this book come alive. Newham offers a perceptive look at the way that London’s communities move and migrate and takes in the changing status of nationalities as they become a part of London’s past and present. She sees the young immigrants, jobless and looking for homes in a city where no young person can afford to live and sets them alongside the £5 a soup carton franchises that are catering to the new richer city dwellers of the East End.
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 problems this can throw up.
Alongside this, both Dan and Maya have issues of their own. Dan is missing his wife and children who are back in Australia and Maya is still trying to piece together what really happened to her father, though her mother, in a home with dementia, isn’t really much help.
Nicely plotted, decently paced, Out of the Ashes is a great read and Newham’s own knowledge of the East End comes through onto the page strong and vibrantly in a vivid and authentic way.
Verdict: Vivid and authentic, this complex and sensitively told portrayal of murders in the East End is a gripping read.
Vicky grew up on the south coast of England in a village outside Chichester in West Sussex. At seventeen, she swapped green fields and mud for the city, and studied French and German in London. After working in sales and fundraising, and running various successful businesses, she obtained a Psychology degree. In 2002, she began teaching GCSE/A-level Psychology in Stepney, East London and moved to East Ham shortly after that.
Vicky left full-time teaching in 2012 and began an MA Creative Writing at Kingston University. She moved to Whitstable in 2013 and has made her home there. She still teaches Psychology, but focusses her days on writing and creative projects.