SECOND OPINION: Girl Zero by A.A. Dhand

Review published on September 22, 2017.

Detective Inspector Harry Virdee is a senior officer based in the city of his birth, Bradford. He believes there is nothing much that can really shock him about the city’s dark underbelly, but Girl Zero and this case will shake him to the core. When he is called out in the middle of the night, little does he know that he will be standing over the body of his murdered niece.

His boss tells him that he is far too close to work the case and that a detective that he mentored will head up the murder inquiry. He does ask to break the news to his family, which is agreed, little do his colleagues know that he is estranged from his Sikh family. When he tells his family, he knows that he will have to be careful how to tell his family and even more so his brother Ronnie. It does not help that Ronnie controls the drug supply for the city and could cause all sorts of problems for the investigation.

Harry must run his investigation off the books and keep his brother informed about what he finds. What Harry had not expected was that his niece had been tracking single mothers who had gone missing with their female children, with the mothers often turning up dead. A victim nobody would miss and a child nobody would give a second thought about. As he digs deep, he finds that some men of Pakistani origin are involved in trafficking children around Bradford so that they may be abused.

Harry realises that he will somehow have to not only find the murderer of his niece but he will also do as much as he can to prevent another murder. Only at the end does Harry realise what he is up against and he will fight for truth and shine a light on this dark episode.

This is a tense thriller that makes you want to question how much do you really know about the darkest part of your city. This is a frighteningly relevant tale about a divided northern city, and it could be any city, not just Bradford, that makes you want to ask, are you willing to ask a sub-set of men some tough questions about their attitudes towards people of another religion, another sex? This really an exposition of people’s morals and how fear of offending has allowed some people to offend without little challenge.

A.A. Dhand really challenges the reader and their misconceptions of people and places, and delivers a story that terrifies while being compelling. This is not a standard police procedural thriller, this is one that asks the question what would you do? Harry Virdee is destined to come to the small screen, I just hope TV can do justice to this fabulous character, and challenge the prejudices we all hold.

This is a sombre, tense slice of the deepest darkest parts of Bradford’s underbelly, and it is one that will keep the reader hooked.

Paul Diggett 5/5

Girl Zero by A.A. Dhand
Bantam Press 9780593076668 hbk Jul 2017

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