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EAST OF HOUNSLOW by Khurrum Rahman: Book Review

He’s a Muslim who sells drugs.  He’s a thirty-year-old man who lives with his mother.  He doesn’t work and drives a BMW.  His name is Javid Quasim.

East of Hounslow is one of the most unusual and amazing books I’ve read this year.  Javid, but please call him Jay, is proud to tell you all about himself.  He’s British born, has never been racially profiled, and is content to be a low-level drug salesman.  He doesn’t see “Paki” as an insult but rather “as a badge of honor,” as Pak means pure and clean.  And although he’s not actually either one, he is living the life he wants.

Jay isn’t unaware of what’s going on in the world, but in his words, “It’s not my war.  Call it religion or call it politics or call it greed.  It all amounts to the same thing:  bloodshed, devastation and broken homes.”  He’s found his place in his world and he’s happy with it.  Until things change.

While Jay was involved in a confrontation at a local restaurant, his new Mercedes, parked in front, disappears.  That is bad enough, but inside the car is seven thousand dollars that he owes to the local drug lord, Silas Drakos.  And when Jay tells Silas what happened, he’s given a week to pay it back.

Then Jay is approached by Kingsley Parker, part of an MI5 task force, with a way out.  If Jay agrees to tell the force everything they need to put Silas away, Jay’s own drug dealing and his assault on a man during the fight at the restaurant will be forgotten.  But, of course, there’s more…there always is.

The borough of Hounslow is a racially and religiously mixed area, with whites, Asians, and Blacks living in close quarters, and churches, mosques, and Sikh temples providing worship sites.  Not surprisingly, although Jay believes he is immune, there are plenty of racial/religious problems in the area.   After he agrees to go undercover for M15 in repayment for their dropping the drug and assult charges, he is told to increase the frequency of his visits to his local mosque and to hopefully get involved with whatever is suspected to be going on behind the scenes there.

Jay’s neighbor Parves, the local gang leader Khan, and Idris, a police friend, are three of the many characters that make the novel come alive.  The book is partially narrated in the first person, and it is so well written and immediate that readers will feel they are next to Jay as he’s telling the story.  Looking for additional background on the author, I discovered that East of Hounslow is the first in a proposed trilogy; I’ve already purchased the second book, Homegrown Hero.

In these days of social unrest, racial profiling, and terrorism, Khurrum Rahman’s mystery is a must read.

You can read more about Khurrum Rahman at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.