Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Girl Zero by A.A. Dhand

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought:

Girl Zero is the second novel by Bradford author AA Dhand, a follow up to his debut, Streets of Darkness.

Dhand takes us back to Bradford, the patch of Inspector Harry Virdee. Virdee has been compared to Luther, but there is at least one crucial difference. Virdee has a family – a wife and now a young son. That grounds him, allows us to see his more tender side, and also gives him something to fight for.

Like all the best crime writers, Dhand explores the dark underbelly of the place he loves – and his Bradford can get very dark indeed. His first novel tackled drugs and racial violence. This second book opens with Virdee confronting the body of his own niece. To begin with it seems likely that her death is linked to his brother’s nefarious activities. But (reminiscent of Craven in the incomparable 80s television series, Edge of Darkness) he soon finds she has been uncovering some dark and dangerous secrets of her own – in this case the activities of a child grooming gang.

In the past few years, many stories of child sexual exploitation have belatedly come to light in the UK. Predators across all communities have made use of the points of access that are available to them. For White predators that has been churches, schools, youth groups, television studios. For Asian predators, it’s been late night chip shops and off licences.

These are modern atrocities crying out to be explored through the medium of crime fiction. Yet there is so much danger of either tarring a whole community with the sins of a few, or looking away for fear of causing offense, that perhaps it’s taken a writer from a British Asian community to tackle this aspect of the problem head on. Like Nazir Afzal, the prosecutor in the Rochdale grooming gang case, Dhand has had the courage and compassion to confront what others have shied away from.

A brave book and gripping read.

You’ll Enjoy this if You Loved: Easy Motion Tourist by Leye Adenle, False Lights by Gillian E Hamer, Streets of Darkness by AA Dhand

Avoid If You Dislike: Stories centred on child sexual exploitation

Perfect Accompaniment: Fried bread with ajwain seeds and a cup of chai

Genre: Crime

Available on Amazon

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