Saturday, 6 March 2021

The Khan by Saima Mir

The Khan by Saima Mir
Published by Point Blank on the 4th March 2021.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Be twice as good as men and four times as good as white men.

Jia Khan has always lived like this.

Successful London lawyer Jia Khan is a long way from the grubby Northern streets she knew as a child, where her father, Akbar Khan, led the Pakistani community and ran the local organised crime syndicate. Often his Jirga rule – the old way – was violent and bloody, but it was always justice of a kind.

Now, with her father murdered, Jia must return to take his place. The police have always relied on the Khan to maintain the fragile order of the streets. But a bloody power struggle has broken out among warring communities and nobody is safe.

Justice needs to be restored, and Jia is about to discover that justice always comes at a cost.

I recognised Saima Mir's name as one of the essayists who contributed to It's Not About The Burqa which I read last year. I appreciated her thoughts and writing style in that nonfiction work so, when I spotted The Khan on NetGalley, I was interested to discover how she would turn her hand to fiction. This atmospheric novel is set within a Pukhtun-Yorkshire criminal syndicate family at a time when the elder patriarchs, led by the notorious Akbar Khan, are seeing their power diminishing. There are echoes of The Sopranos (which is given a nod at one point) in the way that Skbar Khan's influence reaches across his city, and the interloping Eastern European gang reminded me strongly of Children Of Our Age by A M Bakalar.

I found it difficult to warm to Jia Khan because she is a particularly aloof and self-contained woman. I appreciated her difficulties in reconciling the contradictions of her life such as the way in which her British legal training clashed with her father's ideas of loyalty and honour, and how her talents were dismissed out of hand by the men surrounding her. Akbar Khan was perhaps the most interesting character for me in this context because, despite his very traditional views in other areas of life, he still groomed his daughter to succeed him as Khan, rather than automatically overlooking her in favour of her younger brother. I wondered if this would still have been the case if her eldest brother had survived.

The Khan has a good sense of its northern English roots which I felt gave this novel its depth. The family relationships are convincingly complex and I loved the idea of Jia being unaware of her son's existence. Mir flips a lot of conventional gender tropes during her story. I would have liked more showing because I felt so much telling often excessively slowed the narrative pace. That said though, The Khan is a good debut and I look forward to reading more from Mir in the future.

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Books by Saima Mir / Thrillers / Books from England

1 comment:

  1. I've been seeing some buzz on this book for a bit now. I need to look more into it!