I admit I was reluctant to pick up A. A. Dhand’s debut novel, Streets of Darkness, even more so, to pen this review. I’ve dipped my toe into the genre of crime fiction before only to find the writing didn’t appeal or to lose myself literally in all the action. But having published Dhand’s blog, How to land an agent and get published, I was curious enough to give this debut a go, more determined to finish it.
So what did I know about the book? I knew it was set in Dhand’s hometown of Bradford. Here’s what the advance information sheet told me:
‘Luther meets The Wire, this is the first Detective Harry Virdee novel
The sky over Bradford is heavy with foreboding. It always is. But this morning it has reason to be – this morning a body has been found. And it’s not just any body.
Detective Harry Virdee should be at home with his wife. Impending fatherhood should be all he can think about but he’s been suspended from work just as the biggest case of the year lands on what would have been his desk. He can’t keep himself away.
Determined to restore his reputation, Harry is obliged to take to the shadows in search of notorious ex-convict and prime suspect, Lucas Dwight. But as the motivations of the murder threaten to tip an already unstable city into riotous anarchy, Harry finds his preconceptions turned on their head as he discovers what it’s like to be on the other side of the law…’
Well I still didn’t know much after that, so I started reading! The main character, Inspector Harry Virdee’s been suspended for beating someone up. On his morning run he discovers a dead body of newly elected MP. Suspended from his duties, he’s officially off the case, and yet his superior alludes that he’s the only one that can crack the case.
Away from the darker, grittier elements – including characters you wouldn’t invite round for tea, the inter-faith relationship between Harry and his Muslim wife, Saima gives the novel an emotional pull. Saima’s is about to give birth to their first child and yet both have been disowned by their families. Their relationship and the challenges they face as a couple are reflective of the modern multicultural society we live in and gives the novel an edge – one that is bold enough to move away from the tropes of crime fiction to expose the challenges and hypocrisy that lies within and between communities.
Like all the best whodunit plots, Streets of Darkness keeps you on the edge of your seat right until the very end. If you want to know what happens you’ll have to read the book, all I will say is that I was genuinely terrified of the consequences, eager-as-ever to discover the man who was pulling all the strings. I never did work it out until the big reveal.
This is a fantastic, much needed debut. At a time when society seems ever more divided Dhand is isn’t afraid to explore the fine line between race and religion, enemy and friend, riot and revolution as well as tackling some of the bigger questions we need to be asking ourselves around faith, tolerance and acceptance. I confess I’m nearly in love with Harry as much as I’m Luther and delighted that he too will be making it onscreen debut in due course. In the meantime, I look forward to reading the next instalment!
Streets of Darkness by A. A. Dhand is published by Bantam Press and is out now (June 16, 2016).