PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
Cover design: Marie Lane
Raw, energetic and smart, Anyetei's debut takes us into the dodgy and dangerous fringe of London's African communities. Our guide is Mensah, east London's answer to Philip Marlowe, on a Chandleresque quest to find a missing pop star. The action pops and the language crackles. This is the Hackney that makes middle-class hipsters go pale behind their beards.
Nathan Mensah objects to being called a gangster. He’s a fixer. Someone you call with problems no-one else can solve. Black, from Hackney and steeped in the culture of the East London underworld, he operates with the knowledge of the gang bosses, who leave him alone as long as he doesn’t get in their way. One morning, he gets a call from a rich white man who asks him to locate his missing wife, a much younger woman of Sudanese origin. As seasoned crime readers will guess straight away, this job lands him head-first in a far bigger plot. Mensah is a smart, resourceful and, when the occasion demands, violent operator, but the forces lined up against him could be more than he can handle. It’s a bit rough and ready, and sidekick cousin Klu brings some much-needed life and humour that’s lacking in the rather staid Mensah, but don’t be surprised if the film rights are quickly snapped up.
This has to be one of the year’s most unusual crime novels. It is set in the Hackney ‘badlands – a world away from the creeping gentrification of the east London borough – among the African community, or as the cover itself describes it “set in an African city at the heart of London”.
The hero, or anti-hero, rather in Chandler fashion, is the Mensah of the title a “fixer”, independent gangster and connection man. As he puts it, “I make money by solving problems and resolving situations that you can’t involve the government in. For every state of affairs that might get you in trouble if you talk to the wrong people – I’m the right man for you.”
Mensah says he knows “all the people in London that will put you in danger … not every gun-toter and knife hider by name, but the men they call boss, them I know”.
He leads us on an intriguing chase when he is asked to undertake an assignment for Grayson Fielding, a City man who is an investment company chairman and on the board of four FTSE 100 companies. This multimillionaire with offshore accounts and establishment figures among his friends, as Mensah explains, does’t generally have problems “his government friends can’t solve”.
But this assignment involves finding Fielding’s wife, who is originally from South Sudan but has gone missing in London, and it is worth a cool two hundred thousand pounds plus a rather different kind of City bonus of an extra fifty thousand pounds if Mensah can return her to Fielding within 48 hours.
And so begins a tale which meanders around familiar streets and areas of east London but from a completely different cultural perspective.
It is a pacy read and perhaps works even better as social history than it does as a thriller. Worth reading for the story itself and also for the insights into a whole community.'
'Nathan Mensah, the narrator of Anyetei’s fun, fast-moving first novel, prowls the mean streets of the African immigrant underworld in “a dangerous part of London called Hackney.” One of many spiritual great-great-grandkids of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, Nate isn’t a detective. “There’s not really a name for what I do... A fixer, independent gangster, connection man.” Hired by the rich Grayson Fielding to find his missing young wife, originally from South Sudan, Nate, in time-honored tradition, follows every lead, gets involved in side cases, and faces the added mystery of two murdered white women on his turf. Traditional narrative gets a fresh mix with sudden breaks to insert notes on the maximum penalties for the specific crime Nate just committed. Also adding interest are chapter titles, such as “Your favorite criminal’s favorite criminal.” One plot twist is a tip of the hat to Agatha Christie. Fans of London noir are in for a treat. '