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Retiremove: "The mystery will keep you enthralled until the unexpected finale."

Date: Jul 11 2013

At first I didn’t think I’d enjoy this book, as the descriptions of torture and murder are extremely gruesome and shockingly brutal; but the story is so intriguing that I had to read on.

I’m glad I did as I learned a lot about the plight of African immigrants in London.

The opening pages describe three post-graduates; Jack, Ben and David embarking on a foolishly unplanned adventure to East Africa. What occurred there is recalled by Jack, still suffering from post-traumatic stress years later.

They’d decided to go ‘somewhere different’ before settling down to jobs and careers. Just how different is a culture shock; extreme poverty, heat, dirt and cockroaches ‘as big as baby shoes.’ Their diminished well-being is exacerbated by too much beer and too little food.

Hiring a battered car they drive to Lake Victoria, then head for the Murchison Falls, witnessing police brutality at first hand when they stop overnight. Revolted at the gratuitous violence, they dare not interfere. Feeling very insecure, they continue their difficult journey, passing a burning village and finding themselves in the jungle with no road signs. Suddenly they come across a road block manned by armed soldiers, shouting at them to get out of the car.

Here the narrative breaks off, leaving the reader in limbo wondering about the fate of the three friends, and what relevance this has to the present day. We do learn that Jack is now DI Jack Carrigan of the Met, but the details about what happened in Africa aren’t revealed until later, although there is the odd clue.

Jack is an enigmatic character, traumatised by his experiences in Africa and with a mysterious private life. He always does his own thing instead of by the book, making himself unpopular with his colleagues and is a thorn in the side of his Superintendent. He’s assigned a new DS, Geneva Miller, who has her own problems, having been demoted for hitting a superior officer, she’s also going through a nasty divorce. The pair couldn’t be more different but they come to respect each other and form a great, and sometimes funny, partnership.

The story hinges on their investigations into the brutal murder of a young Ugandan student in London named Grace.

They find that she was studying East African History, writing her dissertation on rebel groups who she considered to be death cults rather than political forces. Could she have discovered something during her research that proved fatal to her? And is there any connection with Jack’s past experiences?

I will say no more except that the mystery will keep you enthralled until the unexpected finale. Stav Sherez has the extraordinary ability to combine writing a very original thriller with making a strong social statement regarding the problems facing immigrant communities. I also enjoyed his descriptions of the squalid, grey, gloomy almost Dickensian side of modern London, a side not often seen but which certainly exists.