Fresh Blood

Name: A.A. Dhand

Title of Book: Streets of Darkness

' utterly compelling thriller which delivers on every level.'

The sky over Bradford is heavy with foreboding. It always is. But this morning it has reason to be – this morning a body has been found. And it’s not just any body.

Detective Harry Virdee should be at home with his wife. Impending fatherhood should be all he can think about but he’s been suspended from work just as the biggest case of the year lands on what would have been his desk. He can’t keep himself away.

Determined to restore his reputation, Harry is obliged to take to the shadows in search of notorious ex-convict and prime suspect, Lucas Dwight. But as the motivations of the murder threaten to tip an already unstable city into riotous anarchy, Harry finds his preconceptions turned on their head as he discovers what it’s like to be on the other side of the law.

One of the best things about being a reviewer is finding those debut authors who are set for stardom before other readers do. After reading ‘Streets of Darkness’, I realised A.A. Dhand’s star deserves to be meteoric in its rise.

‘Streets of Darkness’ is packed with the gritty atmospheric locales inhabited by the likes of Marlowe and Spade and is full of characters the reader can love and hate in equal measure.

Harry Virdee is well-rounded and Dhand doesn’t shy away from show his lead’s flaws and dark nature. Lucas Dwight plays a huge support role and acts as the perfect foil for the DI’s brash nature. The other characters are all drawn with more aplomb than one would expect from a debut novelist.

Throughout the novel, Dhand ramps up the tension with his superb plotting and a keen yet searing narrative about racial and religious tensions in a city deprived of employment and investment.

‘Streets of Darkness’ is an utterly compelling thriller which delivers on every level.

Reviewed by: G.S.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) You have encapsulated many racial and religious tensions in Streets of Darkness while also placing the Capulet and Montague roles on Virdee and his wife. Why did you choose to do this?
Bradford has a strong history of racial tension and to-date there are still areas which appear mono-cultural as opposed to multi-cultural. I wanted to subvert the perception of Asian characters in fiction by creating strong leads who would define themselves as British English and are fiercely patriotic but who are also troubled by some of the darkness brought about by their ethnicity.
2) Your setting of Bradford is one you bring alive. Why did you choose a provincial city and how much research did you have to do?
Having lived in Bradford my whole life, my research was my own knowledge and feel of the city. It does have a Gotham-esque feel to parts of the city with derelict satanic mills dotted around the centre. There is an edginess to parts of the city which is a perfect setting for crime-fiction.
3) The timing of the release of ‘Streets of Darkness’ is very apt considering the current political climate in which the far-right is gaining more prominence. Do you consider there are forces orchestrating things within the country in the same way that you have fictionalised in your novel?
I think we live in times where economic and welfare struggles mean that scapegoats are easily made and victimised. We also need to see more diversity in our literature and television screens so that what it means to be British is more clearly defined and visible. There are still areas of the UK where being British is seen as a “white” identity and with Harry Virdee I am claiming Britishness is not restricted to being of any specific colour or creed. It is about democracy, tolerance and patriotism.
4) You encapsulated so many of your characters perfectly. Are they based on real people or are they entirely original?
I have met a vast array of characters in my life and all my characters are influenced by my life experiences but not based specifically on anybody. I like to think that Harry Virdee’s love of his city and country are similar to mine and I perhaps dissipate some of my frustrations through him in literature!
5) Is ‘Streets of Darkness’ a standalone or will we see more of Harry Virdee in the future?
It is the first in a series. I have just finished the second book, ‘Girl Zero’, out in 2017 and am currently working on the television script as TV rights were quickly snapped up.
6) Which elements of pace, setting, characterisation, plotting and theme do you consider to be the most important?
Pace! Always, pace. Characterisation is equally as important but I love cliff-hanger endings and plunging my readers into a pacey, dramatic thriller where the clock is ticking.
7) What are the best and worst things about being a writer?
The best is the ability to create stories which excite me and my readers and fictionally do things you cannot do in real life! The worst is procrastinating (which I hold a gold medal in!) and those times when a blank screen becomes your evil enemy.
8) Which three crime novels have left a lasting impression on you and why?
Tess Gerritsen’s,’The Surgeon’ – it got me writing back in 2006. I loved how much it scared me!

Thomas Harris’ ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ – Hannibal in my opinion is the greatest villain of our time in literature. I aspire to create someone half as scary.

Dan Brown’s ‘Angels and Demons’ – pace, power, PERFECT. The ending was the greatest twist I have ever read.