A runaway Sikh girl.
A Muslim ex-con not looking for any trouble.
Robbery. Drugs. Kidnapping. Murder. Revenge.
Winner of the CWA Debut Dagger, Amer Anwar’s debut novel, ‘Brothers in Blood’ has all the elements of a great thriller and Anwar gets it right. Just released from prison after a stint of five years for manslaughter, Zaq Khan wants to keep his head down and steer clear of trouble. However, his reputation as a tough guy lands him right in the centre of mayhem. When blackmailed by his boss, Mr Brar to find his daughter who has run away from home, discreetly, or else go back to prison for theft, Zaq has no other choice but to look for her.
With no sleuthing experience and only a photo and a list of names to go on, Zaq enlists the help of his closest mate, Jags to figure out how to find Rita, Mr Brar’s daughter. Investigating her whereabouts, her past relationship with Davinder and her current relationship with Kasim, a Muslim guy, all the leads take Zaq back to her brothers – Parminder and Rajinder Brar – who deny knowing anything. Hiding behind the curtain of honour, Brar brothers are anxious to find Rita for more pressing reasons than their family honour. What started as a simple search for Rita who has run away from the forced marriage arranged by her family, takes Zaq to the darker world of the Southall Community. Following the clues about her whereabouts, Zaq ends up in the middle of drugs, kidnapping, murder and a heap loads of robbed money. To top it all, Zaq is brought face to face with his past and its out to get Zaq. Threatened, constantly beaten and nearly killed, will Zaq be able to extricate himself out of this mess?
Fast paced coupled with an ingenious plot; the book keeps the reader on edge till the very end. However, far from being just a thriller, the book is a scathing critique of the values held dear by the Sikh community in West London – Southall. Treating their daughter like a chattel, Mr Brar is not so much concerned with finding Rita than to save his honour, “The Brars weren’t the kind of people who’d be happy simply disowning Rita and letting her carry on with a Muslim. She’d be doing their besti, shaming them in front of everyone. They’d have to restore their izzat – their honour and self-respect.”
Liberally using the desi Punjabi lingo, the author brings to life the true flavour of the Southall Sikh community with their rich food, slangs, deep prejudices and machismo. Though it’s set in Southall, the book could have been placed anywhere in the Sikh community, be it India or London – as the prejudices are deeply embedded in the psyche of the community and are a part of their identity. Mr Brar’s attitude towards the love life of his daughter reminds the readers of the infamous character of ‘Bauji’ in “DDLJ” and shows how little has changed since then.
What sets the book apart from other detective thrillers is its portrayal of characters. Zaq is no hero and definitely, no detective, and thus, it’s more exciting to watch him solve the mystery of Rita’s disappearance. Hesitant to find Rita as she is the victim, he is not ready to go back to prison either and hence, he’s prepared to hand her over to Brars, if necessary. This does not make him truly heroic, but it certainly makes him realistic. Rita, a victim of injustices perpetrated by men in the name of honour, is not some damsel waiting to be rescued. She knows how to survive and is more intelligent and sneakier than her brothers. The depiction of Brar brothers as local goons is balanced by the positive portrayals of Jags, as not all Sikh boys are villains.
Tightly plotted, full of action and violence, ‘Brothers in Blood’ takes the reader to the underworld of Southall community. Neatly tying up all the sub-plots, the author delivers a satisfactory ending which makes it a brilliant thriller. Delivering the perfect blend of the Eastern and Western culture, Amer Anwar’s debut novel is highly recommended for crime fiction lovers.