BlurbA dead girl.
A wall of silence.
DI Maya Rahman is running out of time.
A headmistress is found strangled in an East London school, her death the result of a brutal and ritualistic act of violence. Found at the scene is a single piece of card, written upon which is an ancient Buddhist precept:
I shall abstain from taking the ungiven.
At first, DI Maya Rahman can’t help but hope this is a tragic but isolated murder. Then, the second body is found.
Faced with a community steeped in secrets and prejudice, Maya must untangle the cryptic messages left at the crime scenes to solve the deadly riddle behind the murders before the killer takes another victim.
Turn a Blind Eye is the first book in a brand-new series set in East London and starring DI Maya Rahman.
I need to tell you all how much I enjoyed this debut novel by psychologist turned author, Vicky Newham. I started reading on the 5th and read, maybe 10%, then stopped. On the 7th I picked it up again and read the remaining 90% in about four hours. Now, I’d been having a not great week, and I was so twitchy on Saturday that I couldn’t settle to anything. So television off, bag of Minstrels and a jug of squash by my side, and I settled in for an evening of murder with DI Maya Rahman.
Four hours later I was done, floored, ecstatic. It was gripping, and so realistic I could see Tower Hamlets and Mile End. The puzzle is simple: who is killing the senior management of a once-failing inner city school, and what does the suicide of a young girl three weeks earlier have to do with it? The answer lies in the strange cards left at the scene and the complex politics of the school.
DI Rahman, with her new DS, Don Maquire, a Irish-Australian fast-track candidate, and their team, navigate the politics, and cultural baggage, of the victims, the students and staff, while trying to deal with their own personal problems – Maya’s ageing mother, and Don’s separation from his wife and daughters, who are still in Australia. And on top of that, there’s DCI Ian Briscoll, a dinosaur of the police service, more interested in arse-kissing and point-scoring than actually investigating the case and making arrests. He’s a bigot, a misogynist and racist, with a history of taking the glory for Maya’s work.
I found DI Maya Rahman and DS Don Maquire compelling characters, a pair who fit into the contemporary London they inhabit in an authentic manner. They’re rounded and fallible, with fleshed-out backgrounds and lives beyond their police work. Neither are divorced or have a drinking problem. In fact both are in stable long-term relationships, and drink socially.
The use of limited, first person – Maya, Don, and Steve Rowe, a new psychology teacher at the school – helped to give multiple perspectives on the events of the novel, adding new information and making me want to scream at Steve to ring Maya and tell her everything he’d heard and seen. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Steve is a psychology teacher in an East End school, just as Vicky Newham was before she retired to write. Nice touch. Clearly the author has drawn on her own experience of working in similar locations, with a wide range of students of mixed ethnicities, and backgrounds, navigating family and cultural expectations against the needs of children in 21st century multi-cultural Britain.
In the end matter, the author mentions that her book was started as the creative part of her MA in Creative Writing Dissertation; I’m also planning to write a crime novel, but set in Lincolnshire rather than London, for my Dissertation. I hope I produce something as good. (Wouldn’t mind the publishing contract and the TV adaptation optioning either – fierce five-way auction, apparently! – She so very much deserves it, and I hope a series gets made and everyone watches it. Maya Rahman is fantastic!)