Sunday, August 27, 2006

City of Tiny Lights by Patrick Neate

I recently finished reading the subject novel. It's in the detective fiction genre, leaning very much toward the "hard-boiled detective" sub-genre. It takes place in modern London -- post 9/11, but prior to the July 2005 attacks (it was published in June 2005, so it was probably written in 2004) -- and its protagonist Tommy Akhtar, a cricket aficionado, devoted son, some time private investigator and some time idol to West London's thug-lites. Tommy's parents are Indian (as in, from India) but lived in Uganda, then moved to London.

It portrays a London that I've never seen. Being a tourist when I've visited there, of course I'd not be very much aware of hookers, drug dealers, pimps, and all of the rest of what's generally called "the underbelly of society." Even from reading some of the authors of the police procedurals (another sub-genre) set in contemporary England -- the Dalziel & Pascoe series, the Inspector Morse series, the Inspector Linley series, the Coffin series -- there isn't a real feeling for this aspect of the city as there is in City of Tiny Lights. It's probably because the protagonist, Tommy Akhtar, isn't some aristocrat or employee of Scotland Yard.

It's an earthy story. Tommy is nowhere near perfect, but he's working hard at being a good person and a good detective, despite being rather poor and despite being a person who is discriminated against at many turns because of his dark skin and because he is not a native of the U.K.

I'm going to look for more stories from this author.

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