Friday, 20 April 2018

Girl Zero - A.A.Dhand

Desi voice, angrezi style

Thrillers are a big favourite and I have enjoyed quite a few, often re-reading them to relive the experience. I love the genre for its character analysis and how the situations justify their actions and behaviour. I always found more psychology in fiction than textbooks and this book reminds me of why I love the genre so much.

I heard about this book at a workshop which was part of the Asian Writers 10th anniversary celebrations. The author Dhand was part of a panel talking about crime writing as a genre and shared his frustration for writing such a different story. He spoke of his struggles in refusing to typecast himself into a particular mould to appeal to the commercial forces.

Reading the book, I felt it was a brave attempt from this. debut author. Although I am not a big fan of "this kind" of crime thrillers (read lots of violence), I could relate to this one, because I was familiar with the backstory and could understand what the writer was doing with the plot and characters.

Second in the Harry Virdee series, it is the story of this Cop who is estranged from his Sikh family for marrying a Muslim Girl. The story opens with Virdee, a cop finding out that his niece has been murdered and him stepping foot into his parent's house after ages to break the news.

What works:
  • The opening scene is powerful. It drew me in with its tension and hook. It shows how Virdee is feeling the pressures of his job and creates the curiosity of what is going to happen next.
  • There is blood and gore but it is part of the story. Dhand is talking about the dark side of Bradford and well it justifies its presence.
  • I enjoyed the personal lives of the characters, it is engaging and makes sure that it has a continuing thread that will run through its subsequent books too.
  • The writing style is snappy and very contemporary. Here is a writer who doesn't mince words and knows how to make an impact with it.
  • I followed the newspapers from where the basic plot is based on. It was great to watch how the author has shaped it to fit the fiction mould, while adding his own touches.
What doesn't:
  • At times there feels like a desperate attempt to keep up the gore part to appeal to certain type of reading audience. To me, it was a bit much.
Overall, a good read. I loved the novelty of it all, how a desi writer combines Indian sensibilities into this "firangi" thriller. I am looking forward to finding out how the complicated personal lives of the main characters will play out in the later books.

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