Investigator Mumtaz Hakim is not sure how she feels about Allah’s plan. As a strong Muslim woman negotiating the hostile world of modern London, she’s well aware of the prejudices and shortcomings of her community: “Good Bangladeshi girls were supposed to put family first, always.” But Mumtaz has bigger problems: helping track a young man who’s potentially been kidnapped by a radical Islamic group. In order to find him, Mumtaz must navigate the shadowy world of online jihadist recruiters and London’s gritty boxing clubs. Bright Shiny Things is an authentic, fast-paced crime thriller that explores modern, multicultural London and Muslim life.
Mumtaz isn’t working this case alone. Her partner is private investigator and ex-soldier Lee Arnold. Arnold has a working knowledge of the Turkish-Syrian border, thanks to his service during the Second Iraq War. However, it’s Mumtaz’s expertise that guides the pair deep into the heart of the Middle Eastern conflict. Bright Shiny Things takes on issues of human rights, religious freedom, women’s liberation, sexual oppression, and psychological torture. Rather than sensationalize or offer a dry, detached perspective, the novel acknowledges that these issues are a part of everyday life for many Muslims. Honor your family, or follow your own path and seek an education? Tolerate daily discrimination and hostility, or radicalize and fight back? Mumtaz is a witness to her community, and her strong, confident voice brings this rarely explored world to light. Especially chilling are her text conversations with a jihadist who wants to “convert” her into being his wife. Social media, technology, and Islam are the enemy’s tools—but they’re Mumtaz’s, too, and she uses them all to find the radicals who have kidnapped Lee’s friend.
Barbara Nadel, whose earlier novel Deadly Web won a CWA Silver Dagger, is an incredible writer. Bright Shiny Things is reminiscent of her Inspector Ikmen series, but breaks new ground with Mumtaz. Courageous, self-aware, and driven to fight radical Islam, Mumtaz is a bright new voice in crime fiction—certainly strong enough to carry her own series. Nadel’s background as a mental-health services worker and her childhood in London’s East End round out Bright Shiny Things. This isn’t a caricature, after all: it’s real, and happening right now, all around the world.
Bright Shiny Things is a timely thriller that deals with current issues in the Middle East and the lived experience of Muslims everywhere.
Claire Rudy Foster
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