Unusual Suspects

Reluctant British Spy!

Hi mystery fans! This week I have for you a British spy/coming-of-age novel, a character driven mystery, and Ronan Farrow’s true crime/memoir.

Reluctant British Spy! (TW mass shootings, terrorist attacks/ child deaths/ past attempted suicides mentioned)

East of Hounslow UK cover imageEast of Hounslow (Jay Qasim #1) by Khurrum Rahman: This was so good I listened to it in one day. It’s one of those novels where the character’s voice just grabbed me immediately and I honestly was rooting for him throughout, no matter what he did or said–which, for me, is always an indicator of how much I love a character.

Jay, a young man in West London, doesn’t have anything in his life figured out yet, other than selling drugs to make money and owning a BMW. That is, until a series of events leads to him getting into trouble with his supplier, and MI5 using this as a perfect opportunity to recruit (blackmail?) him into going undercover for them. MI5 sees a young Pakistani Muslim who can infiltrate an extremist group and report back information. Jay, on the other hand, would much rather stay out of religious and political issues, and as a young man who drinks, enjoys sex, and visits the Mosque when he feels like doesn’t believe in judging people’s degrees of religious participation.

Everything is now going to change for Jay as he’s forced to interact with people on opposing sides of issues and those in between, which will lead to him having to make a lot of difficult decisions–and not get caught working for MI5. This is mostly told from Jay’s perspective, although POV does change a bit, and is a great immersion into a community in London, a nuanced look at current political issues, and a great coming-of-age tale.

The narrator on the audiobook, Waleed Akhtar, is perfect! (I listened to the audiobook on Hoopla, Amazon has it currently for $6.95, which is ridiculously priced and I can’t recommend enough–but it looks like the e-book and paperback release in the U.S. in 2020. There’s always the option of bookstores like Waterstones and Book Depository that ship worldwide–it’s that good!)

For Literary Fans (TW hunting, animal cruelty)

Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Deadcover imageDrive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Translation): This is a character driven novel in a remote setting where murders have occurred. We follow along–mostly listen to–as Janina describes the remote Polish village she lives in, her neighbor’s death, and tries to discover what may have happened to Big Foot (the neighbor, not the creature)–hunted animals revenge?

When more bodies are found she tries to help but no one pays much mind to a single elderly lady who is a nature lover, waxes on about astrology and philosophically about various beliefs–including the evils of SUV drivers and their tiny penises. She contacts the police various times trying to be heard, but even they pay her no mind. What is happening and will Janina get to the bottom of it and find peace? If you’re a fan of translated literary works this is fantastic (quirky, character driven–with a super satisfying ending) and I loved the narrator, Beata Pozniak, who really brought this character’s specific way of speaking to life.

My Great Nonfiction Streak Continues! (TW rape/ sexual harassment)

Catch and Kill cover imageCatch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow: I had planned on reading She Said by Jodi Kantor, Megan Twohey first and then Farrow’s book but library holds dictated my order instead and Farrow went first. This was a great read for fans of journalism and following along to see how reporters get sources and put together breaking stories.

In Farrow’s case, as he looked into Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behavior and spoke to women who’d been attacked he didn’t get the support from NBC that one would think a network would give with a story this potentially huge. Here, Farrow recounts the hoops they put him through and, ultimately, how he was sidelined and asked to stop working on the story. While it focuses on Weinstein’s story–along with a few other predators–the book shows that no one operates alone and how systems and our culture not only enable but protect this kind of behavior.

I really like how Farrow basically just laid out facts of events–even showing himself in not the greatest light sometimes, including a fight he had with his sister over Woody Allen. And you know I always go with the audiobook when narrated by the author. I loved the audiobook because Farrow does some ridiculous accents for people he had conversations with, which, for me, acted like pressure relievers on a very serious topic–but some may find this annoying or distracting so listen to a sample. He also has little blips of his sarcastic thoughts, which I enjoyed. And even though he’s always been a very private person he has conversations with his now fiancé in the book (related to the case and how he’s working himself into the ground), which were really sweet and funny and a reminder of how important support systems are.

Recent Releases

Goldie Vance Graphic Novel Gift Set cover imageGoldie Vance Graphic Novel Gift Set by Hope Larson (Author), Jackie Ball, Brittney Williams, Elle Power, Noah Hayes (This is a great gift for comic and Nancy Drew fans as it collects the first four volumes of the very awesome Goldie Vance.)

Queen of Bones (A Havana Mystery Book 2) by Teresa Dovalpage (TBR: mystery series set in Cuba)

Nothing More Dangerous by Allen Eskens (TBR: small-town crime novel.)

The Black Ghost #3 (of 5) by Monica Gallagher, Alex Segura,  Greg Lockard, George Kambadais (New noir + superhero/vigilante comic series.)

The Suspect cover imageThe Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle by Kent Alexander, Kevin Salwen (Currently reading: True crime book that looks at the 1996 Olympic bombing, the security guard that went from hero to accused, and how most of what is remembered is wrong.)

Browse all the books recommended in Unusual Suspects previous newsletters on this shelf. See 2020 upcoming releases. An Unusual Suspects Pinterest board.

Until next time, keep investigating! And in the meantime, come talk books with me on Twitter, Instagram, and Litsy–you can find me under Jamie Canavés.

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