I read Rahman’s first book, East of Hounslow about a year ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, as a pacy, up-to-the-minute terrorist thriller (with a nice sideline in humour). Homegrown Hero is the follow-up, and in some senses it is more of the same – we are back with (our hero) Jay Qasim, who has recovered from his exploits in the first book and is now passing life working in IT for the council; but soon he is drawn into some of the ramifications of his previous actions and his background, and we are back in a maelstrom of action and danger.
It feels extremely contemporary – the plot strands cover not only terrorism (homegrown and global), but the challenge of modern relationships for people from different backgrounds, EDL-influenced racism growing in the context of rising nationalism, and a sense of the divisions bubbling underneath the surface. What Rahman hasn’t lost, however, is his gift for pace and humour – there’s some brutal action and scary violence here, but there’s also what another reviewer described as ‘fizz’: the writing really crackles along, and Jay’s humour grounds him in a way that you don’t get with other heroes (indeed, for me it makes him feel like a very self-deprecating, understated ‘British’ hero…).
Compared to the first book, this follow-up doesn’t quite have the same nerve-jangling tension and drama that its more focused plot helped create. But I think the characters are more richly drawn here (particularly Imran, caught between his traditional aunt, his new relationship and step-son, and the commitment he made in the past), and there were more scenes of poignancy and emotional punch than in East of Hounslow. For me, I was happy to give up some focus and pace for a richer set of sub-plots and the depth and complexity that comes with that – more food for thought, alongside the whip-cracking wit and pacy action. And for those reasons, I preferred it to the first (though I recommend reading that before this one). Looking forward to book 3!