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on 13 May 2016
An absolutely cracking start to the Hakim and Arnold series with Barbara Nadel firing on all cylinders and the introduction to her new pairing, ex-policeman Lee Arnold and his assistant, an early thirties headscarf wearing Muslim window in Mumtaz Hakim. An original East End boy Lee is seeking to establish his private investigations business and in need of an assistant and occasional secretary. Lee hires Mumtaz, impressed by her psychology degree and also somewhat intrigued, well aware that he is taking a risk. Despite wearing a headscarf, Mumtaz is a thoroughly modern woman, long established in the local Bangladeshi community and trying to make a new life for herself and sixteen-year old step-daughter, Shazia. Things are far from easy for Mumtaz following the murder of her husband, the debts that he has left hanging over her head and her often interfering parents eager to see their daughter married off.

When Lee is approached by Maria Peters, a notorious 1980s comedian remembered for her "mouth like a sewer", she raises concerns that she is being followed and someone has access to her home. Given that she is trying to revive her career following the death of her husband she might seem a likely target for vigilantes opposed to her politically incorrect comedy, but her own concerns that she might be imagining things alert Lee to her fragile mental state. Arnold agrees to a 24/7 surveillance operation and brings the psychology knowledge of Mumtaz into play as they dig deeper into Maria's personal life. When Mumtaz suspects that Maria is hiding something and the full extent of her connections to a local "happy-clappy" church and some remarkably shifty friends emerges, it is time to alert the police. As the duo become increasingly concerned that Pastor Paul Grint may not have Maria's best intentions at heart they threaten to open up a can of worms with the revelations they uncover. Meanwhile at Forest Gate station DI Vi Collins has her superiors on her back as a flasher hanging around the Olympic Park is one spectacle that the great and the good are eager to stamp out before the cameras arrive for London 2012!

Each and everyone of Nadel's characters is well fleshed out, especially jaded DI Vi Collins, with her feisty attitude and her take no prisoners attitude. Vi knows Lee of old and as the investigations cross into each others territory she brings much to the novel and forges a genuine bond with Mumtaz. The extended family of Mumtaz also works well and despite their wish for a suitable husband to support Mumtaz, her father, Baharat, is a refreshingly modern voice, most notably for his vocal incomprehension of the extremists who are to blame for fuelling much of the rising Islamophobia within the community.

Nadel also considers how the headscarf that Mumtaz wears provokes differing reactions in society, from the BNP militants, to the born and bred East Londoners down to how the men within her own culture treat her. Pretty soon Mumtaz proves her worth and the willingness of the Muslim women to trust her attracts a new demographic to the agency and she soon has her own cases, with the community valuing her discretion and understanding of the religious implications that many of their situations involve.

Nadel manages to provide a real social context to this novel as she weaves in the build up to Stratford hosting the Olympics in 2012. As money is poured into funding a glamorous stadium the realities for the majority of the community are much starker and the "inflated importance" that the event has achieved is a frequent gripe among the characters. Not only does Nadel draw in the Olympic Games, she makes reference to the London riots and the rise of Islamphobia in the wake of 9/11 and the introduction of anti-terrorism laws. Nadel also bravely raises the investigative difficulties when the practices of some other cultures begin to show signs of making inroads in the UK, most specifically with her treatment of witchcraft, and her honestly and colour on a modern East End is admirable.

Nobody does the East End better than Nadel as she paints a portrait of a changing London, never seeking to preach, just presenting things as they are and recognising that within every culture, race and religion you get "wrong un's". A timely and insightful novel and a reminder than there is a much darker side to unquestioning faith, whatever the religion. No topic is off limits and her characters tell it like it is, making for a vibrant new series full of local colour and makes for an authentically honest portrait of London. Outstanding, original and highly recommended.

Review written by Rachel Hall (@hallrachel).
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on 3 October 2012
Barbara Nadel is just the best at bringing to life totally quirky protagonists. This first in her third series (after the Ikmen books and the Hancock series, both published by Headline) looks like it will be just as enjoyable as the others. Her heroes this time are a slightly rough former policeman turned private detective, Arnold, who is without faith of any kind, but who, like Nadel's Cetin Ikmen, is nevertheless accepting, if skeptically, of the religious inclinations of others. His new assistant in the private detective business he owns is Mumtaz Hakim, a scarf-wearing, religious Pakistani woman, a young widow raising her teen-aged step-daughter alone. The detectives' homes and the business are located in London's East End, where I understand Ms Nadel grew up. That would explain her ease with location details and knowledge of the local Pakistani and Afro-Caribbean populations. This novel is typical of Nadel in that she somehow juggles about twenty unexplained or ominous characters and apparently non-related events that somehow pull together at the end. The subject of detection in this case is a former stand-up comedian, of the dirty-mouth variety popular some years ago, who is trying to make a comeback after the death of her older but beloved husband. It is readily evident that there is a lot going on besides what she has told Arnold and Hakim; what remains to be seen is how much is real and how much is buried within the troubled woman. Meanwhile, Nadel takes us on a chase around London involving arranged marriages, Olympic site shenanigans, weird sexual deviancy, rebellious youth, riots and the darker side of several religions. Nadel, like her protagonists, manages to criticize behaviors without condemning belief, which is a nice change from a lot of current authors writing today. I gobbled this book up way too fast, and look forward to the next in the series. Provided, of course, that Ms Nadel doesn't deprive us of Inspector Ikmen and his Istanbul crew!
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on 8 October 2013
As a big fan of the Ikmen series set around Istanbul, I was looking forward to Nadel's first foray with a new detective team set in East London, where she apparently grew up.

'Cor blimey guv' - what a letdown! Nadel serves up a cartoon caracature of the East End, filled with stock stereotypes (even down to the 'comic' interludes from the west ham supporting mynah bird), following formulaic plotlines to a predictably left-open set of conclusions. In terms of authenticity, think Dick van Dyke's cheeky cockney chappie from Mary Poppins transposed to the pre-olympic 2011 London riots.

Wasting two days of a holiday on this tosh was bad enough, but I didn't want to post a negative review without at least having finished the piece. More worrying though, if Nadel's representation of and feel for East London (which I know reasonably well) is as accurate as her descriptions of Istanbul, how will I ever enjoy an Ikmen book again?
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on 7 January 2013
I really enjoyed this book.

I wasn't sure at first about the narrative style and thought the authors may be playing the politically correct card in the character selection. But that wasn't the case at all.
The narrative grew in confidence and style and you really were on the heroes side. There was a warmth and positivity that ran through what is essentially a tragic and dark story.

So a low key crime story, which challenges some racial stereotypes, and leaves you feeling good about the characters and the story, even though the author left a slightly dark ending....

I will read another of this series
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on 27 December 2013
I read one of Brabara Nadel's books of the Inspector Ikmen Mysteries and liked it enough to try a more recent work. I imagined it would be in the same style and keep me engrossed for a couple of days. This was nothing like what I'd previously read. It was boring, unimaginitive and I just couldn't care less about the characters. What a disappointment. I read a third of it and gave up. It's rare for me not to finish a book as I usually research carefully before buying.
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on 17 November 2012
An interesting pairing of a Muslim woman who covers her head and an ex-cop PI, plus a pleasantly tortuous mystery, not to mention the door left open at the end for the next installment.
Yes, there's some swearing. So what? Mainstream Hollywood movies these day seem to use the F-word as a matter of course. Used properly, swearing works,and Barbara Nadel clearly knows her swearing. Great stuff.
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on 22 August 2014
Yet another 'edge of the seat' story. I cannot put these books down so HAVE to stay up all night reading them.
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on 19 October 2013
The real strengths of A Private Business is the characterisation, contextualisation and social interplay between characters. Nadel has created four strong lead characters in former cop, Lee, Muslim widow, Mumtaz, divorced and world weary cop, Vi, and former alternative comedienne, Maria Peters. The plot focuses as much on their own lives and troubles, and the various forces shaping them, as it does the investigation, and this is a definite plus rather than a distraction. They are genuinely interesting characters with fleshed out back stories and social networks. The story itself is relatively straightforward and its clear from very early on what is happening; it's more a case of how it unfolds and resolves than a puzzle. My impression on finishing the story was that it would be perfect for a television adaptation. I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the series.
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on 28 March 2013
Please review your products and join in the campaign to get Amazon to pay taxes in UK. For Kindle users we now find ourselves stuck with Amazon or waste our money. Big companies need to pay their share of taxes like most of the erst of us do. We could avoid further cuts to services if everyone paid the taxes that they should.
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on 3 February 2013
I love Barbara Nadel and have read almost all her books. I am not keen on the Hancock books, but maybe I'll get to like them. I love Cetin Ikmen and have read all the novels in which he features. I wasn't sure about this new departure for her as the reviews
were mixed. However, I needn't have worried, I was captured from the start. I didn't find the swearing a problem as it was an integral part of the story and not gratuitous. The characters are very real and likeable and I am awaiting the sequel.
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