Set in an unnamed city in northern England, journalist Saima Mir’s debut novel, The Khan (Point Blank, £14.99), is a south Asian reworking of The Godfather. Successful lawyer Jia returns to the childhood home she fled as a young woman and takes over the family’s organised crime business when her father, Akbar Khan, is murdered...
As if all this were not enough, the delicate balance of power in the city is threatened when a more recent set of immigrants, this time from eastern Europe, tries to muscle in. Mir offers us a fascinating glimpse into a world rarely portrayed in fiction, as Jia’s opponents, both inside and outside the family, start to learn that they underestimate her at their peril.
Taking its lead from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, this crime debut from a British- Pakistani journalist opens with a wedding — but South Asian not Italian, and in northern England rather than New York.
Jia Khan, a successful criminal lawyer in London, is tempted back to the ceremony presided over by her father, Akbar Khan, who is not only a respected elder of the Pakistani community but also runs the local organised crime syndicate.
ike all good novels The Khan raises more questions than it answers. It is, of course, about crime and justice, race and prejudice, but it is also about self-deception, disillusion and how the people you love most can become the people you can bear least. To begin with its progress is stately — preferring to tell rather than show — but Bradford-born Khan soon gets into her stride and provides scene after scene of intense drama. The information she imparts is often eye-popping too: who knew the reason that fireworks go off so often nowadays is to signal the arrival of another drug shipment? This impressive debut reveals a world in which monsters exist “in the guise of friends and behind smiling faces”. It is a considerable achievement.