This is a book which had sat on my tbr shelf for a little while, but one for which I’d also bought the audio book. Earlier in the summer I ventured out on the long drive to Harrogate and it seemed the perfect opportunity to finally sit down with Imran Mahmood and find out what the book was all about.
The Official Book Blurb
It’s easy to judge between right and wrong – isn’t it?
Not until you hear a convincing truth.
Now it’s up to you to decide…
An unnamed defendant stands accused of murder. Just before the Closing Speeches, the young man sacks his lawyer, and decides to give his own defence speech.
He tells us that his barrister told him to leave some things out. Sometimes, the truth can be too difficult to explain, or believe. But he thinks that if he’s going to go down for life, he might as well go down telling the truth.
There are eight pieces of evidence against him. As he talks us through them one by one, his life is in our hands. We, the reader – member of the jury – must keep an open mind till we hear the end of his story. His defence raises many questions… but at the end of the speeches, only one matters:
Did he do it?
If ever there is a book which perfectly suits being made into an audiobook then this is most definitely it. It was the most unusual and yet compelling audio book I think I’ve ever listened to, and the story itself, while nothing particularly out of the ordinary – one young black man accused of shooting another – they style of narrative and perspective from which the story is told absolutely is. It shouldn’t work, shouldn’t be plausible. Shouldn’t be able to entertain for eight hours and hold your attention from first word to last – but it absolutely does, and it does so with aplomb.
Told from the point of view of the defendant, a young man who has been accused of murder, we as the audience are treated exactly as a member of the jury. We are privvy to the closing arguments of the defence as they break down each one of eight pieces of so called ‘incontrovertible evidence’ against the man, providing full disclosure in a bid to convince ‘us’ of the man’s innocence. That in itself is nothing unusual either, your so called courtroom drama playing out on the page. And that is true. It is set out exactly as one would expect to see the court transcripts, each day set out with all the normal legalese one might expect to hear – adjourments etc all recorded on the page and marking a break in the defence or the end of a court day. Due to the author’s own experience in the legal field there is no doubting its authenticity, but it doesn’t sound very original though right?
But what if I told you that the defence’s closing arguments were being made by the defendant himself? That the voice we hear is his. That in providing a defence he in reality gives up a full breakdown of all events that led to the fateful day in which a man died and he found himself arrested. What if you knew from all that was slowly and carefully disclosed that matters which may have been painted as black and white are not quite as them seem? That there is far more to the story than meets the eye.
Would it make a difference? To your thoughts about the book or, indeed, of the guilt of the man?
This was such an intriguing and unusual read. Through the retelling of his story you get such a picture painted of the defendant’s life, of the people who colour it and the events which inform it. Whether from his time in school the young man is on an almost inevitable path is hard to say, but there is no denying the way in which the troubles he finds himself in quickly escalate. More than just a coutroom drama, this is also a social commentary. In truth, this could be any young man, from any council estate in any City of the UK. The way in which Mahmood captures not ony the language of the street gangs but also the kind of lives that children in the many run down estates of London find themselves living, forced into gangs as a means of survival, add a layer of authenticity to the novel which allows you to over look some of the perhaps less plausible elements, such as the length of time the Judge permits the speech to take place over.
Perhaps it should rankle a little that things seemed to be dragged out, that it didn’t seemed to reach a pint very quickly, but you know what? I didn’t care. It didn’t bother me that the defendant went around the houses to say what he needed to say. He wasn’t meant to be a professional Barrister. He wan’t meant to be succinct and articulate. He was meant to be fighting for his life, his freedom, and that’s exactly how it fealt. Like I said, perfect for an audio book and this was a brilliant performance by Adam Deacon. He really brought the character to life. Essential really given that his is the only voice heard throughout the whole book.
If you like closure in a novel, to know without shadow of a doubt who dunnit and that they get their just desserts – well this probably isn’t for you. There is no doubt that the man, whose name, despite knowing every other aspect of his life, we never actually get to know, is guilty of something. But is it murder?
You are the jury.
I know my thoughts. Take a read of the book for yourself and then maybe we can have a chat sometime.
A unique, compelling and authentic voice and a truly entertaining and engrossing story. Loved it