The fourth outing for Harry Virdee, A.A. Dhand’s Bradford-based protagonist is an explosive one, and that description is apt. The novel opens with a massive explosion, a huge bomb exploding under the City Park, the emergency services having evacuated the area with just moments to spare. Harry was in the park with his son and it takes him a little while to discover that the city’s mosques are being held to ransom, a previously unknown far-right group having planted a similar device within one of them, warning that if any worshipper should leave any of them that it would explode. Harry’s wife, Saima, is in one of the mosques and this makes things very personal. The far-right activists just have one demand, that the leaders of the radical Islamist group, Almukhtaroon, are delivered to them. Do that and the congregation of the mosques can go free.
Enter Tariq Islam, the UK’s first Muslim Home Secretary, and a man with a past in an off-the-books special forces unit. Islam asks for Virdee’s help in locating and capturing the Almukhtaroon leaders. The UK government can’t be seen to be giving in to the terrorists’ demands and thus if the police find the Almukhtaroon people they will be taken into protective custody, if Harry does however, then perhaps the trade can be made secretly. So begins a race against the clock for Harry to locate the Almukhtaroon before thousands of worshippers, and potentially his wife, are obliterated in an explosion.
After the third Harry Virdee novel, City of Sinners, strayed into serial killer territory (though no worse for it, that novel as with all the others in the series is very good) One Way Out is firmly back in the territory Dhand has occupied before, namely a convoluted plot firmly rooted in the city of Bradford though with geo-political overtones. This perhaps is his most political book, touching on many of the themes that have appeared in earlier works, that far-right and Bradford’s racial tensions for example, but taking them further and tying them deeper into the national, and even international, landscape. If that all sounds heavy and off-putting it shouldn’t. This is a high-octane and thrilling read, one that could easily be read on a beach, but it’s also a cut above, one that has a brain as well as heart.
The author has clearly put a lot of effort into this book too, researching the topics well. Just one example, at the back of the book, he lists a number of fictional aspects to the plot, such as the fictional Almukhtaroon. Another is Group 13, the unit that Tariq Islam was a member of. But while the author says this unit is fictional, it’s one I’d heard of before, a reputed organisation often mentioned on para-political and conspiracy sites. Does it exist or not? Perhaps, perhaps not, but unless Dhand just got lucky, full marks to him for his eclectic research.
Once again, I can’t recommend One Way Out enough and I really hope that Harry Virdee returns once again
James Pierson 5/5
One Way Out by A.A. Dhand
Bantam Press 9781787631755 hbk Jun 2019