Piatkus, Great Britain, 2016
Shamini Flint will be at the Terror Australia Festival in Cygnet 1 to 3 November 2019.
This is the seventh in the Inspector Singh series. Where have you been all my life, Inspector Singh?
Inspector Singh is a Sikh policeman based in Singapore, but his investigations take him far afield, this time to London. His presence in London, ostensibly, is to take part in a Commonwealth conference on policing and community relations.
However, the brutal murder and mutilation of a young woman, the cold case at the heart of interviews with community, inspires him to do what comes naturally to him – to investigate and to find the murderer. The trail quickly becomes murky with two other similar cases coming to light.
Below all of this runs the story of the family of the murdered woman – the doctor, the brother who runs the restaurant and the brother newly returned from Syria to become the ‘point of the sword’ in London. And below this runs the story of Regina de Klerk, head of the community policing task force and her husband Shaheed Muhammad. Fear not, all the stories intersect and it is finding out how this is so that is one of the many pleasures of this book.
Another of the deep pleasures of this novel is Mrs Singh, Inspector Singh’s formidable wife, who insists on accompanying him to London, having a fondness for shopping (at Harrods et al) and catching up on relatives.
Not content with shopping, however, she quickly becomes involved in Singh’s murder investigation, apparently drawn to the case out of a desire to see justice for the young woman who is the subject of the cold case, Fatima Daud. Apparently Mrs Singh sees Fatima as the child she could have had and this gives her courage to push on into places angels should fear to tread.
This is one of those stories where you want to shout at the good folk, ‘No, don’t go there alone. Wait for the back up.’ It’s a cross between watching a Scandi noir TV thriller and sitting in the audience at a panto – ‘Look out behind you!”
In the midst of these crime scenes, Shamini Flint cleverly directs us to consider the nature of love and family. Inspector Singh, highly likeable even in his grumbling bouts, thinks about what life would be like without Mrs Singh, thorn in his side though she can be. The two other families central to the story must also work their way through questions of familial loyalty, the consequences of tradition, the thorny issue of who to trust and the cost of obedience.
I have made this sound terribly serious. And while the crimes and the contemporary social issues explored in this story are undeniably grim and serious, the book is full of gentle humour that had me laughing out loud.
A great deal of this in expressed in Inspector Singh’s thoughts and muttered remarks. I especially liked his ‘Bollocks to Dickens’ comment at a crucial and dire place in the plot. It follows a reference to A Tale of Two Cities and it is perhaps for this reason as well as the action that follows that it is so chuckle worthy.
Now that I have met Inspector Singh, I need to go back to the six stories in the back catalogue as soon as I can. He has established himself immediately and squarely in my favourites list.