Thank you to the wonderful people at Lightning Books for sending me this marvellous book to read and thank you so much to Abi Silver for writing me a guest post. I am half way through this book and I LOVE LOVE LOVE IT, please go check it out. So, without further ado – welcome to my place on the blogging tour:
When an elderly artist plunges one hundred feet to her death at a London hospital, the police sense foul play.
The hospital cleaner, a Syrian refugee, is arrested for her murder. He protests his innocence, but why has he given the woman the story of Aladdin to read and why does he shake uncontrollably in times of stress?
Judith Burton and Constance Lamb reunite to defend a man the media has already convicted. In a spellbinding courtroom confrontation in which they once more grapple with all-too-possible developments in artificial intelligence, they uncover not only the cleaner’s secrets, but also those of the artist’s family, her lawyer and the hospital.
A new Burton and Lamb legal thriller with an AI twist from the author of the acclaimed The Pinocchio Brief.
‘Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land…love them as you love yourselves’: Leviticus 19:33-34
#These are a few of my favourite things – part two
It always takes time for my ideas to bed down, sometimes months, sometimes years. That’s the nature of the beast called #amwriting, I suppose. Some days I overhear a snippet of conversation on the underground, I make a mental note and use it that very night. More often, I squirrel it away for a wintery day, when it suddenly and unexpectedly becomes relevant. Other times, ideas flood in at night and I thrash around, attempting to tame them, before scribbling them on a notepad I keep by my bed. Sadly, there have been occasions when I’ve been unable to decipher my scrawl in the morning – enough said!
But throughout 2015, the refugee crisis was featuring most nights on the News and it could not fail to stimulate my interest and evoke my sympathy. Overloaded boats of all shapes and sizes were taking to the water and promptly sinking, with tragic consequences. Our inspired response? To cease patrols of the Mediterranean, in the hope that would stem the flow.
Camps of destitute migrants were expanding at Calais; our answer was to tear them down. Young, desperate men were storming lorries bound for the Channel Tunnel in the hope of reaching England before arrest, so we increased security and threatened drivers with prosecution. Further East, Hungary closed its border with Serbia, ceased all railway crossings and mounted-police patrolled barbed-wire fences, forcing families to take long and often treacherous journeys on foot, to reach their desired Western European destinations. I watched and gawped and felt totally and utterly powerless.
Then I realised there was something I could do, something I often do when I am trying to make sense of what is going on around me; I could write about it. And as the focus slowly shifted from exclusion towards ‘integration’ and our then PM, David Cameron, committed the UK to accepting 20,000 migrants from Syria over the following five years, I began to reflect on my own immigrant past.
Just over a century ago, all four of my grandparents arrived in the UK, fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe. As with many of today’s refugees, we don’t know the route they took, how long they were travelling or how they managed to travel so far. They certainly didn’t talk about it to me; Kitty, Joe (my maternal grandparents), Bernard and Esther (on my father’s side), not their real names of course, but the closest approximations in English to their birth names. They didn’t get to keep their long, difficult-to-spell surnames either, being lumped in with the people in front in the queue, suddenly creating a whole new artificial, extended family.
There were not many clues for my younger self to my grandparents’ foreign past. They spoke English, apart from the odd Yiddish word, which tended to escape from their mouths in moments of tremendous angst, when there really was no English substitute (I challenge you to find an appropriate synonym for ‘Oy a Clog!’ – sort of OMG but imbued with centuries of bondage, woe and affliction).
Grandma Kitty loved the Queen (‘I think she’s marvellous’ she would say) as she munched on Ryvita with cottage cheese for breakfast, Grandpa Joe liked to write long, almost illegible letters to Margaret Thatcher (he had only spent three years at school) and never missed an episode of Hawaii Five O and Grandad Bernard, who had worked as a tailor, was ‘a frustrated artist and musician’ (apparently he had played the violin as a young man but I never saw any evidence of this; I do, however, have some of his paintings up in my house today, so that part of his history, at the very least, must be true).
But as I watched the modern-day refugees on TV, disembarking on our shores, I wondered what life had been like for my grandparents when they first arrived, clutching a few personal possessions, dispossessed even of their names, knowing no one and saturated, no doubt, with a wealth of traditions and culture which most English people would have found strange and frightening.
And so with the inspiration of my grandparents firmly in mind, I created Ahmad Qabbani; a recent arrival on English soil, considered fortunate to have found cleaning work at my fictional St Mark’s hospital, but ultimately unlucky to have chosen to befriend an elderly patient who ends up dead, eleven floors below. Ahmad becomes the prime suspect in her murder and Judith and Constance, our accomplished double act, have to work hard to craft him a defence, in circumstances where the media has already judged him to be guilty; nothing like real life then, I’m pleased to say.
Thank you once again to Abi Silver for writing such a wonderful piece.