My review of THE THING ABOUT THUGS appeared at the end of last month in Shelf Awareness for Readers. (I'm catching up on posting these, can you tell?) It appears here today with their permission.
Tabish Khair, an award-winning poet, has woven stories inside of stories in his crime novel about a series of gruesome murders in Victorian London.
Starting in a small Bihari Village, Khair introduces Amir Ali who falsely professes to English Captain William T. Meadows that he is a member of the Thugee cult in an effort to exact revenge on his family’s murderer. Meadows, who is writing a book about criminality, sees Amir as a perfect study specimen and takes Amir back to London to record his (fictitious) life story. So when a series of London’s underclass begin showing up dead and headless, Amir’s charade turns into a deadly one. He is the prime suspect in the grisly murders.
Kahir takes his readers through a series of perspectives in The Thing About Thugs. Altering from chapter to chapter, the reader experiences the events through the eyes of most of the book’s characters.
This is not a mystery in the sense that the reader is trying to solve the crime; the reader knows who is guilty from the onset. Instead, Kahir looks at the mystery of man, his relationship with others and with the world around him, as well as his actions and reactions to the events that impact him. Kahir builds suspense through the unpredictability of man.
London’s underclass makes for a resplendent array of multi-faceted characters that contrast the dark corners and tunnels and alleyways they inhabit. Kahir’s poetic language makes this world he has created explode for the reader’s senses: sights, sounds and even smells emanate from the pages, wrapping readers in Kahir’s web of stories.
I don't typically share what my "Discover" line is from the post on Shelf Awareness as they don't make a lot of sense in the context of a blog post, but the line I chose for this particular review included a quote that is especially poignant and reflect of the novel, so my final line for this review was:
"Discover: a good man who only wanted justice but learned 'Stories, true or false, are difficult to escape from...In some ways, all of us become what we pretend to be.'"
The Thing About Thugs is available in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0547731605) from Houghton Mifflin Harcort.