Monday, February 14, 2011

City of Tiny Lights, Patrick Neate: book review

Posted by lea at 4:35 PM
I'm back on The Great Library Challenge after a bit of a break, and for my N author I chose Patrick Neate's book City of Tiny Lights, mainly because of the cool cover art and Frank Zappa reference.

The protagonist is 'Paki-immigrant Ugandan Indian English' hard-boiled detective, Tommy Akhtar. The story starts with such a corker of a private eye cliche (his client is a hooker who's looking for her hooker flatmate who's been missing since her johnny, a prominent politician, was murdered in a fleabag motel) that at first I thought the book was taking the piss out of the genre.

It wasn't. But neither does it take itself so seriously that you can't enjoy the ride.

In the way of good detective novels, the story starts with a simple premise that becomes increasingly complex as the Akhtar digs deeper into the case. What's unique about this particular detective novel is that the hero is an immigrant with a complicated background and completely dysfunctional relationship with his father and brother, which is actually kinda explored (though not fully) and not just glossed over.

I have to admit I got lost a few times as the plot increasingly moves forward at a frenetic pace, and there are a lot of minor characters that are easy to lose track of, as well as a host of MI5 and CIA agents, terrorists and 'thug-lites' who pop their heads in. But overall it was an enjoyable read, quite witty and patched together with a light touch.

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