49) East of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman
If there’s one word I wasn’t expecting to use to describe a “drug-dealer turned spy to infiltrate terrorist cell” story, and that word is *fun*. But this book by Khurrum Rahman is enormous fun – indeed, one could even use the word rollicking. It rattles along at a really fast pace and the narrative keeps moving along, at least in part because the voice of the main character (Jay) is entertaining with plenty of wry asides.
The downside of the novel moving at the pace it does is that it at times feels a little ‘thin’, either in characterisation or in the believability of the plot. Rarely has it felt easier for a low-level drug dealer to get recruited by the intelligence services, infiltrate a terrorist cell and get trained overseas. All without anyone really batting much of an eyelid. At times, disbelief is not so much suspended as strained, stretched and thrown out of the window in a “this is how it would be in the movie” type of way.
For all that, there’s no denying how enjoyable this is – and how refreshing it is to have a tale told from this perspective: it shouldn’t be as unusual as it is to have a young Asian man as a narrator, nor to have all facets of the Muslim community in West London represented. I’m really looking forward to reading what Rahman does next, if it’s as thrilling and funny as this is.