Review published on July 8, 2017.
This is an unusual court-based crime drama, as it focuses on the lengthy closing speech delivered by a young man who is on trial for the murder of a youth named Jimal. Authentic and fresh, it is a very impressive debut novel from criminal defence barrister, Imran Mahmood.
Set in London, the shooting occurs in a deprived, densely ethnic area associated with gun crime, drugs and gangs. There are a number of key points of evidence that have been used to frame this unnamed man for the murder. Some of it sounds readily circumstantial, other parts seem adequately supported by forensics.
Essentially, our defendant sacks his QC as he thinks he will portray only a slanted account of the situation, from which no one will really understand who he is and what it is like living where he lives. What transpires is a full backdrop to his life, his family and friends, and he presents an alternative account of what happened. He is likeable, charismatic and reasonably persuasive, and his account for the better part is pretty compelling. It is just one voice in this book and as is the risk with such an approach, consequently I did find at times my interest did wane when the dialogue meandered too much, but this was only now and again. During the latter part of the described events, it lost the controlled detail that featured earlier in the story and so became less well knitted. It’s possible this could have been deliberate, but for me it did expose some flaws. Nonetheless, it offers a very powerful insight and causes you to really think about how we perceive and reach decisions sometimes all too quickly.
It cleverly depicts the reality of how both in the court and in deed in the wider world we use facts, assumptions and bias to interpret a situation and believe it be absolutely true. In reality, what is written forms a broader warning, a time to reflect that we shouldn’t just accept everything we hear and read and take it at face value. Perspectives exist for a reason and we have a responsibility to interpret things wisely. To this end, the book requires the reader to consider and deliver the verdict.
Sara Garland 3/3
You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood
Michael Joseph 9780718184254 hbk May 2017
SECOND OPINION: The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne