Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Wait for me, Jack by Addison Jones

Book Review by Greenacre Writer, Carol Sampson

Wait for me, Jack is the latest novel by Addison Jones which follows Milly and Jack through a sixty year span of their marriage.

We first meet them (then known as Billie and Jacko) in 1950 living and working in San Francisco, both looking for excitement and adventure; both looking for a better life than that of their parents.

Billie at 21 has left behind her life in the valley and “can almost see the bridge she’s burned. She can smell it. A thrilling, charred smell.She is working as a secretary at Perkins Petroleum Products and meets Jacko on his first day there as a copywriter.

Jacko – “His dad was Jack; he is not, and never will be” – doesn’t like anything about his work, or the people, at Perkins Petroleum. At 24 he cannot see himself stuck in a dead end job for years on end and considers not returning after lunch. He does return and is introduced to Billie.

She thinks he is cocky and “reminds her a little of James Dean” and Jacko finds Billie sexy with hair “just like Marilyn Monroe”.  

Desperate to better himself and, with clear aspirations for his future, Jacko has no desire to date any girl from the valleys. When, at the end of the working day, he asks Billie out to dinner he detects “something unpleasantly familiar” about her and cannot work out quite what it is but after some reflection on her appearance and clothing, convinces himself there is nothing wrong with her.

Billie declines Jacko’s offer of dinner, then changes her mind. The initial attraction between these two young people, desperate to escape their simple upbringing, is strong. Life for them is unpredictable, exciting and full of promises.
The story then catapults to 2014. Somewhere along the way Billie has become Milly and Jacko is now Jack. They are dealing with the challenges that inevitably come with old age, where illness and senility has slowly crept up on them. They are now well into their 80’s where they muddle along through the day, each irritated by the other.

Jack had “been in a bad mood for so long, he couldn’t remember not wanting to strangle his wife,’ and Milly knew “her husband was so lazy, so selfish”. Despite this, they both knew they loved each other.

By the end of the second chapter I was captivated and already felt I knew Jack and Milly. I could not wait to find out what had happened in the intervening years, taking them from the first flush of love to the descent of old age.
The story works backwards from 2014, told from both Milly’s and Jack’s perspective, to when they first met in 1950.  I wondered the reasoning for not working forward chronologically but as the story progressed I found it fascinating to see who they were before discovering some time later the events that had defined their characters. The story follows their joys and the disappointments and how their characters change in response to these experiences.

Addison Jones has told the story with sensitivity and understanding along with some thoughtful insights, such as Jack’s selfish realisation that very few would miss him when he was gone and Milly’s more pragmatic view that marriage requires a lot of hours.

There is humour too. Jack refers to Milly’s sightings of imaginary people in the house as “urinary infection hallucinations” and makes the observation that “those pillow lines used to last a minute – now sometimes she kept them till lunch”.

There is a lovely descriptive piece when jack sums up his life so far – now in his early 40’s - in an imaginary abstract painting, revealing his emotions. “black smudges, grey at the edges” when his dad and Glen Miller died. College – an exciting time with wonderful new experiences - were “an alizarin crimson explosion, running vertically right off the canvas. Yards and yards of Lizbeth’s breasts”. There are many superbly written pieces throughout the novel.

Jones has skilfully conveyed how life drifts from one experience to the next, changing us along the way. It shows the reality of life and the love that often runs so deep that it may appear non-existent but is still there, humming in the background. The story also shows that despite being married and having a family there are times when loneliness can be acute.

Wait for me, Jack is a very entertaining and thought provoking novel which many will find resonates, in part at least, with their own lives. It explores the roles each partner plays in the family unit in an effort to keep it whole and the sacrifices and selfishness that are individual to each.
A very enjoyable read.

Thank you to Sandstone Press for the review copy

You can follow Addison on Twitter: @cynthiarogerson

Monday, 20 February 2017

Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb

Book review by Greenacre Writer Mumpuni Murniati

He’s sitting opposite me, arms folded, legs stretched out beneath the table. Waiting. In this windowless box it’s impossible to tell how much time has passed. Still, I can’t look at him, not yet, so I focus just below his eyes, where the dark shadows lie. My heart’s racing, a voice in my head screams, run, just run. I want to, I surely do, but I can’t. For all that’s gone down, someone has to pay. It’s time for me to pony up.
‘You lookin’ at me now? Good. So answer the question.’

Lori Anderson knows her life depends on how good her answers are. Convincing ‘him’ is another problem.

From the word go, Deep Down Dead grips readers with its adrenalin-packed plot. Steph Broadribb’s digs into the topsy-turvy world of a female bounty hunter; her heroine is a single mother of a nine-year-old daughter with cancer. If she wants Dakota’s much-needed treatment to continue, she has to act fast. She’s three months behind with the payment, so time’s running out. There is one job that can settle the arrears, but the one she would avoid most. No sooner has she seen the brief than she realises she should walk away. But, what other choice does she have to find $15,000 within a week?

Wrestling with emotions, she prepares the journey to West Virginia with one heavy burden in mind: she must bring Dakota with her to pick up JT. The last time she saw him was ten years ago, on a bloody night that makes Lori swear never to fire a gun ever again in her life. What’s more, JT is far from being a stranger: he was her mentor and once a lover.

What seems to be a calculated-risk job with the big reward turns into a huge calamity. Moments after she gets Dakota out of a farmhouse where he’s been kept, police are after him for three homicide charges. The games changes when Dakota is kidnapped shortly afterwards. Defying her boss to hand over JT to the police, Lori knows that he’s her ticket to save Dakota. Yet she learns that it’s not just an exchange; the same people who take away her daughter will kill JT, as soon as they get proof of the crime. Can she let that happen?

Broadribb’s training as a bounty hunter no doubt has inspired this smashing debut novel. Good looking and savvy, Lori is not an ordinary working momma; her profession scorns the gender stereotype with a lucid portrayal of difficulties and dilemmas faced by every mother.  
There’s no holding back in exposing Lori’s vulnerability as a victim of childhood abuse and an erstwhile battered wife. Broadribb paces Lori’s opening of her Pandora’s Box well amidst the disastrous scenes filled with kick-ass actions and guilt in every turn. The ebb and flow of her old feelings to JT surge in a fleeting moment that feel like a necessity to move forward the plot than a romance re-told. It’s little surprise that JT becomes an unprecedented sidekick despite her golden rule to never trust anyone. Yet shadowing by the thoughts of how she feels about Dakota in the hands of her captors, is the deeper mess of the night ten years ago.  
In creating Lori Broadribb has done a great job in her meticulous study of characters. It’s noticeable that Lori has lived in Broadribb’s head long enough before being morphed into the imperfect but resourceful girl. For Lori’s viewpoint is clear and consistent throughout, although she ought to mull things in her mind less. I hope in the next book there’ll be more about JT in his own voice.
I take a sip of the raspberry-flavoured water. Look up, and meet the gaze of the man sitting opposite me. It’s the first time I’ve looked at him since I began to tell my story. ‘That’s it. You know the rest. I called you, you came here, we’re talking.
Special Agent Monroe nods. ‘I believe you. Sounds a hell of a three days.’
‘Sure was. Do we have a deal?’

Broadribb is one ‘hell’ of a writer to watch for. I am looking forward to reading the Deep Down Trouble, being excited for Lori’s next mission and how she has to corroborate with the authority. Has she more enemies? Make or break with JT? Will Monroe be a sidekick?

Thank you to Orenda Books for the review copy.

Follow Steph on Twitter: @crimethrillgirl

Saturday, 18 February 2017

A Conversation With Dreda Say Mitchell

Dreda Say Mitchell was born and bred in the East End of London, Mitchell has seen it all from the inside. After a string of jobs as a waitress, chambermaid and catering assistant she realised her dream of becoming a teacher. During this time she saw a new generation of East Enders grappling with the same problems she had but in an even more violent and unforgiving world. She has worked as an education consultant and a teacher in both primary and secondary schools. She has a degree in African history from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and a MA in Education Studies. Her first novel, Running Hot, was published in 2004 by the Maia Press and won the Crime Writers’ Association’s John Creasey Memorial Dagger Award for best first novel. Dreda's books are inspired by the gritty, tough and criminal world she grew up in. She still lives in London's East End. In 2016, she became a Reading Ambassador for the Reading Agency to promote literacy and libraries. She is also the author of the Quick Reads, One False Move.

She loves to travel, with her hot feet taking her as far a field as Cambodia and Laos to the Lebanon and Ethiopia. She especially loves to relax in Grenada where her family are from. She continues to live in east London with her partner, Tony.

The second novel in The Flesh and Blood Trilogy, from the iconic author of London’s East End, following one family over forty years on an East London estate. Blood Mother goes back to the 70s to tell the next story.

An extremely well written fast-moving chase thriller, violent yet at the same time intelligently confronting the issues of loyalties and betrayals inevitably raised by undercover activities. Mitchell improves with every book                                                                                  - The Times

1970s London has stopped swinging, but it's not staying still. Babs thought she had all the world ahead of her. Then she got pregnant and the father did a runner. Salvation comes in the form of a man who'll look after her. Or so she thinks. But Stan Miller is the devil in disguise...and over the next twenty years, Babs will have reason to regret she ever met him. Can she protect her family - or will he get the better of her? Blood Mother is the second thrilling book in the Flesh and Blood series, capturing a world very different from today but where some things still hold true: be careful what you wish for, and watch out for who you trust...

We'd like to thank Dreda for taking part in A Conversation's really interesting hearing how she became a writer and why she writes about 'her people'. We look forward to hearing more about her adventures as Reading Ambassador for the Reading Agency, her experiences of writing about about diverse characters and, we wish Dreda much success in the future.

Tell us of your journey as a writer

I loved reading and hearing stories when I was a kid, but I wasn’t one of those writers who dreamed of being a writer as a child. I decided to write in response to the world around me and at the time I wanted to use the written word to try and figure out how I ended up at university and a teacher while many of the young men I grew up with had ended up in prison…and so the CWA John Creasey Dagger award-winner, Running Hot was born. I kickstarted my writing career by going on a creative writing course three years on I’d completed my debut novel. What a feeling!

How do you see your role as a writer and what do you like most about it?

I’m a storyteller. I write about things that matter to me. That’s one of the things that makes writing so brill is that you can use it as a way to try to figure out the world your living in. As a way to highlight to the world the issues that matter to you. So, for example, Geezer Girls takes the reader smack bang into the horror that can be the care system, my latest Blood Mother drags us back to the 1970s when people had high hopes of the promise of living on freshly built housing estates, but women’s lives were still very limited. As well as making the story as entertaining as possible I adored writing about what I call, ‘my people’, the characters. It’s the people populated on the page that make a novel standout.

What has been your experience of writing about diverse characters?

Well. being black, a woman, growing up an East Ender having a range of characters is very important to me. I often write about London and, as far as I’m concerned, you can’t write about our great capital city if you don’t truly reflect the different type of people who live there. I could go on and on and on about this…

What are you currently working on? What can we look forward to reading?

Just finishing off the final book in my Flesh and Blood Trilogy, Blood Daughter. The Flesh and Blood series is tells the story of three generations of women from one family over forty years. It hits the shelves in August. Can’t wait….

Who is your favourite literary character from childhood and why?

I read so many books when I was young that it would be so hard to choose, but my mum would send me and my siblings off to Whitechapel Library. I will never forget the day I stumbled across the crime novels of African American writer Chester Himes and was transported back to an age when Harlem was hip, cool and, of course, dangerous. The standout leads are two cops called Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones. Dedicated to their jobs but as their nicknames suggest they have their own ways and style about getting to the truth.

Blood Mother is published by Hodder Paperbacks

Follow Dreda on twitter: @DredaMitchell

Saturday, 4 February 2017

A Conversation with Sheena Kamal

Sheena Kamal has been a stunt double (for children), a stand-in (most notably Archie Panjabi) and a film/TV extra. She has been a producer’s assistant and most recently, a researcher for a gritty TV crime drama series set in Toronto. Eyes Like Mine is inspired by one issue that kept cropping up during her research- the plight of the missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada: The Highway of Tears.

Sheena holds an HBA in Political Science from the University of Toronto, which she attended on Canada's most prestigious scholarship and was awarded a TD Canada Trust scholarship for community leadership and activism around the issue of homelessness.

The phone rings.
The man on the other end says his daughter is missing.
Your daughter.
The baby you gave away over fifteen years ago.

PI Nora Watts isn't sure that she wants to get involved. Troubled, messed up, and with more than enough problems of her own, Nora doesn't want to revisit the past.

But going in search of her daughter brings Nora into contact with a past that she would rather forget, a past that she has worked hard to put behind her, but which is always there, waiting for her - in a syringe, in a bottle..

"Kamal has come up with an unusual and engaging character that is uniquely her own. Nora carries a plot which could veer into unbelievably with panache and there's a page-turning thrilling element to the narrative. This could be my book of the year and it's only January." 
                                                  - Sarah Ward, author of Crime Pieces

In Eyes Like Mine, Sheena Kamal has created a kick-ass protagonist who will give Lisbeth Salander a run for her money. Intuitive, not always likeable, and deeply flawed, Nora Watts is a new heroine for our time. We'd like to thank Sheena, for A Conversation With... it's great to see the plight of the missing indigenous women 
in Canada highlighted, and wish Sheena much success in the future.

Tell us of your journey as a writer

Books have always been my best friend. Sad, I know, but that’s the truth of it. I love books. I’ve always wanted to write one, but I figured it was for People With Something To Say.

After university, I went into acting and, through that, became very interested in writing for screen. I tried to do that for a long time but the film and television industry is tough to break into. In the end, I was tired of putting myself out there and feeling stomped on. I’m short enough as it is.

I had an idea for a novel that was in its gestation stage when a crime writer friend of mine hired me, as an actor, to read his manuscript to him. Suddenly, I could see the path in front of me. I knew I could do it, somehow. I had this absurd conviction that I deliberately chose not to look too closely at. I dropped everything and moved to Vancouver to write the novel. When I was finished, I went to Thrillerfest in New York and pitched to agents. Eyes Like Mine is what came from it all.

How do you see your role as a writer and what do you like most about it?

I think the world has gone mad and the only thing that makes it better is stories. Writing is deeply personal for me. I write in attempt to understand places that inspire me, to see people in a new way, to unleash my imagination. What I love about it is that I get to follow my curiosity and sometimes the connections my mind makes truly excite me. I love the spark of creation.

Have you ever created a character who you dislike but find yourself empathising with?

Yes! When I was trying to be an actor, the first thing I learned was that I had to lose ten pounds. The second was that it’s essential to back the character you’re playing. Nobody sees themselves as a villain or a terrible person. I always try to bring this lesson to my work. I empathise with all my characters, even the ones I would cross the street on a sunny day to avoid. One of the more interesting ones for me is Nora’s sister, who hates her. I understand her motivations very well, though, and see a lot of myself in her.

What has been your experience of writing about diverse characters?

I write the world as I see it and people my stories with characters that I see around me. It’s as simple as that. I lucked out in my childhood. I grew up in one of the most multicultural parts of Toronto, Canada, which is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Diversity is everyday life for me and I never twice about including someone with a background or identity that isn’t well represented in literature, or different from mine. Chances are I will have gone to school with that guy and he made me do all the work on group projects.

That being said, writing specifically about a cultural experience that’s not my own requires some thought. I don’t come lightly to the page in those circumstances—but I still come to the page.

If you could be transported instantly, anywhere in the world, where would you most like to spend your time writing? And why?

Somewhere tropical, where I can watch the sun come up over the water as I write. I know for a fact that this is the best me. Plus, I’m not a huge fan of wearing pants (American) so I prefer to be in an environment where I don’t have to. I was born in the Caribbean so it makes sense that I work best in warm weather.

What is the one book you wish you had written?

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, which I read as an adult. It’s an incredible book—and it has polar bears! There’s so much in the His Dark Materials series to hold onto, but I like to think of Lyra with her alethiometer and how it only works when she is holding something in her mind without thinking directly about it. That’s how I see the act of creation. I think of her alethiometer often and wish I came up with the idea.

What advice do you have for would be novelists/writers?

I’m not sure I can give advice because I don’t have anything figured out at this point. Maybe in a few years I’ll have some definitive impressions of the whole shebang to share with people. In the meantime, I’m just trying to muddle through it all myself.

What are you currently working on? What can we look forward to reading?
I just finished the first draft of the sequel to Eyes Like Mine, tentatively titled It All Falls Down. It has been an exercise in self-flagellation—but I did enjoy writing it, too. Maybe I like self-flagellation?

You can help me figure out if it was worth it when the book comes out in 2018.

Who is your favourite literary character from childhood and why?

Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit, because I think we could be friends. I feel like he understands what it’s like to be a small person in a large world. We’re both fond of breakfast. Also, he went on an adventure and, honestly, I love adventures. I’m on one right now.

Eyes Like Mine is published by Bonnier Zaffre

You can follow Bonnier Zaffre on Twitter: @BonnierZaffre

Friday, 3 February 2017

Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy

Whatever happened to James Woolf? James was runner up in the Greenacre Writers/Finchley Lit Fest, short story competition in 2016? 

When he caught up recently with GW, he told us he has been busy writing and has recently sold two short stories to Ambit magazine. The first of these, Mr and Mrs Clark and Blanche, was published on January 31st. Ambit did a launch of the issue (#227) on 31st May and James read from his story.  
James wrote the story after becoming fascinated by the David Hockney painting Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy. He researched the history of the painting and decided to include his research in a short story. He toyed with different ways of framing the narrative, eventually settling on a retired academic’s article for an art magazine. However, the article becomes increasingly unreliable as the footnotes move away from the painting and concentrate on the problematic life of the academic himself.

Ambit was first published in 1959. It was set up by London Paediatrician, Dr Martin Bax and over the years has included such illustrious names as Carol Ann Duffy, JG Ballard and Geoff Nicholson in its editorial team. The magazine is still going strong after more than 50 years of publishing.

At the packed launch of the issue, James’ challenge was to read an extract of a story that has twenty seven footnotes – however, the audience appeared to quickly tune into the humour of the piece. There were also diverse readings from Ruby Silk, Dom Bury, Alex Townend, Stav Poleg and Carly Holmes. Some of the artists published in this issue were also at the launch. Editor Briony Bax told the audience that Ambit now receives submissions from all over the world. The submission windows for both poetry and prose are currently both open until the end of February.

You can buy the issue 227 online on the Ambit website. More information can be found about James’ work on his website. The cover for issue 227 is reproduced above.

Follow James on Twitter: @WoolfJames

Saturday, 21 January 2017

A Conversation with Mark Hill

Mark Hill is a London-based full-time writer of novels and scripts. Formerly he was a journalist and a producer at BBC Radio 2 across a range of major daytime shows and projects. He has won two Sony Gold Awards.

Mark Hill's debut the Two O’Clock Boy is the gripping, twist-filled start to a fantastic new London-set crime thriller series starring morally corrupt DI Ray Drake – the perfect fresh addiction for fans of Luther or Dexter.

Thirty years ago, the Longacre Children's Home stood on a London street where once-grand Victorian homes lay derelict. There its children lived in terror of Gordon Tallis, the home's manager.

Then Connor Laird arrived: a frighteningly intense boy who quickly became Tallis' favourite criminal helper. Soon after, destruction befell the Longacre, and the facts of that night have lain buried . . . until today.

Now, a mysterious figure, the Two O'Clock Boy, is killing all who grew up there, one by one. DI Ray Drake will do whatever it takes to stop the murders - but he will go even further to cover up the truth.

"An unsettling and powerful story... The plot cleverly weaves past and present – with shocking, edge-of-the-seat twists until its heart-stopping finale."
                                       - David Young, author of Stasi Child

Discover the gripping, twist-filled start to a fantastic new London-set crime thriller series starring morally corrupt DI Ray Drake - the perfect new addiction for fans of Luther. We'd like to thank Mark, for A Conversation with...and wish him huge success in the future.

Tell us of your journey as a writer

I had one of those amazing English teachers at school who saw something in me that nobody else did and encouraged me to write, which I did in a fashion – I became a journalist. I always felt that one day, one day, I’d be an author. But the months and years passed, great civilisations rose and fell, my hair turned grey and my chins multiplied, and I still hadn’t written a novel. Maybe I was just kidding myself. There was only one way to find out. So I sat down and wrote the book that became Two O’Clock Boy.

How do you see your role as a writer and what do you like most about it?

My role is to entertain the reader, give ‘em all the good stuff - heartbreak and horror. Keep them all up at night, cause them to miss their stop on the bus. I want to tell the best story possible in the best way possible, and to cram the pages with unforgettable characters. It’s something to aspire to, at least. Coming to writing in my 40s, I discovered the process is something of an emotional rollercoaster, but I love every minute of it and can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s a pleasure - and a privilege.

Have you ever created a character who you dislike but find yourself empathising with?

One of the joys of writing crime is that you get to explore all kinds of murky emotions and experiences. Difficult or abhorrent people are always fun to write. But people have often commented on the ambiguity of my characters – I like finding the light and shade in even the most despicable chancers. The truth is, I love all my characters – I find getting into the head of imaginary people an incredibly cathartic process, actually. I’m particularly attracted to the ones who have reached the end of their tether. People who have crossed a line and can never step back, but who still grasp for redemption. It’s great to play with all those big emotions – love, hate, terror – and step away at the end of the day.

What has been your experience of writing about diverse characters?

One of the reasons Two O’Clock Boy is written over two time periods – in the 80s and the present day - is because I wanted to write as many different types of characters as possible: young and old, damaged and, er… more damaged. True, they’re unfortunate to exist in a crime novel and may not necessarily survive till the end of the book… but I hope they enjoy their moment in your mind’s eye. There are other characters, too, who didn’t make it through to the end of the drafting process. I like to think they’re still out there somewhere, waiting patiently in some weird literary waiting-room in a parallel universe, suitcases at their side, ready to re-emerge in someone else’s book.

If you could be transported instantly, anywhere in the world, where would you most like to spend your time writing? And why?

An author friend showed me a photo of his colourful writing shed beside an aquamarine swimming pool in some sun-soaked place. That looked nice and I ached for a few moments. But the truth is, I fear I wouldn’t get too much work done in such a paradise. The fact is, a small cell with no windows and no wifi signal is probably what I need more than anything else. The view from my attic room across my garden and the houses beyond is probably more than enough for me. I love watching the sky burn red over the rooftops at the end of the day.

What is the one book you wish you had written?

There are so many. I’d like to write a crime novel which is the perfect balance of theme, character and story. Something like Dennis Lehane’s terrific Mystic River.

What advice do you have for would be novelists/writers?

Write, write, write. Find a way of getting words on the page that works for you and when you do, trust the process. There’s a brilliant quote about writing by the US broadcaster Ira Glass, that a friend of mine kindly made into a poster for me and which now sits beside my desk. Glass talks about how it’s going to take a while for your work to become as good as your creative ambition – that’s normal, but you’ve got to do a lot of work to close that gap. You’ve got to fight for it.

What are you currently working on? What can we look forward to reading?

The follow-up to Two O’Clock Boy is currently under construction - be sure to wear your hard hat and hi-viz jacket. There will be murder and mayhem. You have been warned.

Who is your favourite literary character from childhood and why?

That would be Willy Wonka: genius, recluse, benefactor, psychopath.

Two O'Clock Boy is published by Sphere

Follow Mark on Twitter: @markhillwriter

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Stained by Abda Khan

Book review by Greenacre Writer Mumpuni Murniati

Abda Khan’s Stained, begins with her protagonist finding justice to her attacker with a captivating opening chapter told through Selina’s eyes after being raped. Khan threads the story in the following chapters feeding readers with the complexity of the so-called ‘dark issues’ in Asian communities dwelling into pride, hypocrisy and shame issues surrounding the taboo of exposing adulteries and indecencies.

There are some similarities to Monica Ali’s Brick Lane and the character of Nazneen. Selina and Nazneen are the same age and both young women are smart and self motivated. Nazneen, Ali’s protagonist, defies expectations to begin with; she is thought to have been died after birth – to Selina with her energetic personality and high aspirations. Nazneen is a young bride brought over from Bangladesh with no English, whereas Selina was born and bred in Bradford, both are trapped in their respective circumstances with little freedom; the former is in one of the Tower Hamlets high-rise council flats whilst the latter in an untimely pregnancy and an impending arranged marriage against her wish.

In Brick Lane, Ali highlights the imposed alienation of being uprooted, loneliness and an unhappy marriage that leads to her haram relationship with Karim. Stained exploits guilt and culpability whereby a terrified girl has to think fast to uphold her family honour. Nonetheless, both novels are upbeat in divulging intriguing taboos that are much influenced by the South Asian cultural interpretation of Islamic values.

Khan does her job well using first-person account to illustrate Selina’s dilemma of being a dutiful daughter and a terrified girl battling her fears, shame and anxiety. She is eloquent but vulnerable, a reliable voice with vivid observation. The plot thickens, as she is faced with her attacker in her home a year later and is about to be attacked again. What’s more, the downfall of Selina seems to mirror Ali’s climax of Nazneen’s adultery with Karim. Stained becomes more interesting as Selina has to bear the consequences of her action.

I like Selina a lot – her attitude and her resilience. It’s easy to have a lot of sympathy for her. Her choice of phrases and expressions emulates little paraphrasing and bears little semblance to the mind of a young girl’s uphill battle growing up as a British Muslim whose world is a clash between traditional upbringing and secular society.

Personally, I believe the strength of the book lies with its minor characters. Nevertheless, there is not much said about their back stories; e.g. Zubeir and his background; the making of a sexual predator masked in high education and a glowing reputation as a scholar and a family man.

The real life Rotherham sexual abuse case exposed men in the same league as Zubeir. What’s more, Khan shows that there are other victims of his that then come out in the story. By the same token, they are only briefly described for the sake of the subplots.  

In the fictional world, I am not sure what Khan actually wanted for Selina: is she a symbol of a modern British Muslim girl? Is she a symbol of a generation of young women blighted by sexual harrashment in 21st century UK?

I recommend this book because the need for ‘following up’ the Rotherham case is greater than ever. Young girls should be perpetually reminded of the signs of grooming by older men and how dangerous they are. I hope what happens in Selina’s world can inspire other girls with similar experiences to come forward and seek justice for themselves.   

Thanks to Abda Khan for suppling an e-version of the book

Follow Abda on Twitter: @abdakhan5