HQ | 2019 (30 May) | 400p | Review copy | Buy the book
One Friday afternoon, elderly widow Rosa Feldman leaves her newsagents shop in Brick Lane to watch a flash mob form. It turns into a party with music and Rosa, like everyone else, starts to dance. One can almost forget that each of the gang members with the music players are wearing a dark mask. And then the soup shop across the road from Rosa’s shop bursts into flames and explodes. Rosa had seen the woman who lives there leave early that morning but her husband may still be indoors. It’s an inferno and people run for their lives. DI Maya Rahman and her sergeant Dan Maguire arrive on the scene to discover the shop contains the remains of two bodies, Lithuanian shop owner Simas and a woman whose identity is unknown. It seems that this is a shop of secrets. And what does the masked gang want?
Out of the Ashes follows on from Vicky Newham’s strong debut, Turn a Blind Eye and, if anything, Out of the Ashes is even better. Bangladeshi detective Maya is an intriguing figure and in this second book her character has settled. There are still occasional flashbacks to her childhood but there is a strong sense that Maya is now more comfortable in her skin and ready to get on with her life. Dan, by contrast, continues to have problems and there’s no sign of them easing. An Australian, his family is far away and he’s not finding the separation easy to handle. But the focus here is on the case at hand.
Vicky Newham brings this multicultural Brick Lane community to life. Many nationalities are represented and this makes it a sensitive crime to investigate. There are so many potential lines of inquiry to follow. Suspicions are thrown far and wide, especially as Maya discovers that so many of the people she interviews are connected. Maya can’t help becoming personally involved as she discovers the most vulnerable of Brick Lane who live such precarious lives. While there are several personal dramas being played out, it is all set within the context of this most infamous of London Streets which is under threat in so many ways.
Out of the Ashes is a novel packed with characters you feel for, especially Rosa Feldman and young Ali. And, although at times I feel that the narrative is a little earnest, this is because it’s full of heart and full of care for its characters. Brick Lane is such a fantastic setting for the book. I’ve read a fair few historical novels set down Brick Lane and it’s good to read a contemporary novel that brings it and its richly varied community into the present day. Vicky Newham is such a good writer. I’m looking forward to more.
Turn a Blind Eye
I’m delighted to post my review on the opening day of the Blog Tour! For other stops on the tour, please do take a look at the poster below.