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on 29 January 2016
This is the second book I’ve read in the Hakim and Arnold series and it hasn’t disappointed. Almost every PI series has at its core an unlikely pairing, and this is no exception. Mumtaz and Lee, the Muslim widow and the ex-cop, complement each other perfectly. The East London setting, with its immigrant families, gangsters and racketeering landlords is brought vividly to life. I like the fact that the plot, though multi-faceted, is still comprehensible, but even so, there were at least three twists at the end of the story that I never expected – always a bonus. All in all, a great story for lovers of PI tales, and I’ll definitely be reading the next one in the series.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 August 2013
Must admit to having tuned in late to this new crime venture by Barbara Nadel, known for the excellent Turkish Inspector Ikmen series, and having missed the first book A Private Business, featuring PI's Lee Arnold and Mumtaz Hakim, will seek to make amends with a review of this, the second in the series.

Gravitating around the East End of London in the run-up to the Olympics, I think what struck me most about the book was how issue-based the story was, with a wide-reaching commentary on the social and cultural problems facing normal people scratching out a life in the metropolis. Nadel interweaves these issues, not only into the central murder plot, but also within the lives and back stories of all the main protagonists, notably in her Muslim PI Mumtaz Hakim, a single parent suffocating under the weight of debts left by her late husband, and with the mental scars left by the abuse that she and her step- daughter received at his hands. This story is replicated to some degree in her interaction with Nasreen, a wife not wholly trusting of her own husband, and who strikes up a tentative friendship with street dwelling ex-soldier John, who is later murdered. Nadel deftly illustrates the stresses of these women's previous and current relationships with secretive and violent men, hemmed in by the constraints of their religious obligations in marriage. We also gain an insight into the abuse of other women, as Nadel highlights such issues as sex trafficking and the difficulties for women trying to raise their families under the constraints of slum landlords and moneylenders. These are debts that can sometimes only be repaid by the cruellest and most demeaning acts possible, and Nadel provides an effective counterpoint throughout against the backdrop of the hope and regeneration bound up in the staging of the Olympics- a renewal that provides little succour in reality for those that lived in its shadow.

Although for my taste I found the plot a little pedestrian, I did read this book at a pace, as the previously mentioned socio-cultural aspects of the book were more than enough to keep my interest, and I did like the little nuggets of interesting facts and observations that Nadel drip-fed throughout. I also took to the central characters of Lee Arnold, the ex-police officer and Mumtaz Hakim, and the respectful parameters of behaviour that defines their relationship both on a personal and professional level. I enjoyed the touches of humour on Arnold's part especially in relation to Nadel's portrayal of the nastier characters of the piece and Arnold's interaction with them, and how her `baddies' were truly despicable and seemingly untouchable from the forces of law and order, personified by feisty DI Vi Collins, who also enjoys a unique relationship with Arnold. Indeed, the natural wit and characterisation of the book along with the more thought-provoking addressing of social and cultural problems, more than made up for any weaknesses that I perceived personally in the plotting.

On the strength of this book, I will most certainly be seeking out A Private Business, to catch up on the beginnings of the partnership of Arnold and Hakim, and would certainly recommend An Act of Kindness for those who like their crime with a little more social conscience, uncovering the reality behind London's shiny facade.
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on 9 June 2016
The East End of old collides with the very modern face of the area in a hard hitting follow-up to the excellent debut novel A Private Business, pairing white private investigator Lee Arnold and his Muslim assistant, Mumtaz Hakim. Local boy Lee is East End born and bred and as an ex-soldier, ex-copper the hiring of early thirties widower and headscarf wearing Mumtaz Hakim was always a risk. A year later Mumtaz has more than proved her worth and afforded the Arnold Detective Agency on Green Street, Upton Park a way into the lucrative market in troubled Asian ladies. In the run up to the Olympics which are promising to regenerate the London Borough of Stratford, the realities for many of the residents is very different. Despite all the 'opportunities' and empty promises, life for those who find themselves muddling along on the poverty line is much unchanged and as hard as ever and Barbara Nadel illustrates this perfectly in An Act of Kindness.

When two new clients seek the help of the agency, and specifically Mumtaz she hopes it will provide a welcome distraction from her own problems. Lee is concerned that something serious is worrying her and despite a growing bond he knows that she will be unwilling to disclose her problems. As a proud Muslim and a mother to sixteen year old stepdaughter Shazia, Mumtaz's problems are financial and the inherited debts and hefty mortgage of her dead and abusive husband, Ahmet, has left her at the mercy of the notorious Sheikh clan. However, what Mumtaz and Lee cannot envisage is that the two cases will take them to some very dark places and draw some striking parallels to Mumtaz's own life.

When newlyweds Nasreen and Abdullah Khan bought the house on Strone Road at an auction six weeks ago Abdullah insisted they do the renovation work themselves whilst living with Nasreen's parents. Whilst solicitor Abdullah is at work, pregnant Nasreen goes to the house alone and it is on one of these occasions that she meets and establishes a connection with homeless John Sawyer an ex-soldier who has struggled to come to terms with the horrors he witnessed in Helmand. She opts to keep their meetings secret knowing Abdullah has a jealous streak and will not approve. As Abdullah becomes more controlling and the first seeds of doubt lodge in Nasreen's mind, when John is found murdered the suspicion that her husband is somehow involved sees her seeking the help of Mumtaz. Meanwhile the approach of Ayesha Mirza, a Muslim by marriage with concerns that her sister, Wendy, has been dragged into a prostitution racket by her unscrupulous landlord, Sean Roger's and his brother Marty sees the duo working surveillance, but Lee knows the the notoriously volatile brothers from old and understands what a very serious threat they can pose. As each of the separate investigations unravels the connections become clear and collide in the most explosive and unforeseen way.

Barbara Nadel brilliantly explores Mumtaz's obligations to the Sheikh family and the threat they hold over Shazia and draws parallels with both Nasreen Khan and Wendy Dixon. It is at this point that you are struck by how life isn't that different for Mumtaz, Nasreen or Wendy. Mumtaz recognises the power that husband Abdullah holds over Nasreen who treats her as his property in the way Ahmet did, and similarly the Roger's overt threat to Wendy's daughter, Dolly, replicates that of the Sheikh's to Shazia. Different cultures, different classes yet at the end of the day there is a very circuitous nature to this novel. Barbara Nadel is a realist and she paints a gritty but authentic picture of a London which has evolved. That she does not gloss over the tensions and problems that still trouble those who settle in the area is to her credit; Nadel simply stands back and tells it how it is. An Act of Kindness is a timely reminder that for those at the very bottom of the food chain in a diverse East End, life is as sharp-edged as ever.

At the heart of this series is the realism and depth which Nadel has attributed to both Lee Arnold and Mumtaz Hakim and other recurring characters such as DI Vi Collins and Baharat Huq. Mumtaz is a strong independent woman who covers her head by choice and has a degree in psychology and DI Vi Collins is a feisty no-nonsense East Ender who delivers a brilliant put down! An excellent instalment from a truly innovative series which with each outing becomes more assured. An Act of Kindness is both an entertaining and thought-provoking read. Crime fiction with a social conscience that packs a punch and combines local colour and three-dimensional characters.

The Hakim and Arnold series is one of the most satisfying and truthful narrations on the changes which have occurred in the UK. Nadel takes a big picture view of the changes that have attracted various social demographics to the modern London and provides an insightful look at some of the beliefs of both Islam and Judaism. Barbara Nadel manages to illustrate that it is not religion per se, but the way it is interpreted than is often so divisive. There is a certain irony in that both that to the diverse array of cultures which now occupy the East End, the foreign tongues are the European ones and the changing times has united previous enemies. The areas of tension and the dividing lines between cultures and classes might have altered but the melting pot that is East London remains as combustible as ever.

Review written by Rachel Hall (@hallrachel)
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on 27 January 2015
This new series of detective fiction locates the action in the East end of London rather than Istanbul and has a male- female duo. There is a lot of character narrative from previous novels in the series as a background which although necessary for the plot gets tedious. The plot however becomes increasingly unrealistic in its attempt to recreate the world of the Kray twins in the here and now whilst retaining a flavour of multiculturalism. Ultimately to believe in the characters you have to suspend belief in the reality of the situation. The portrayal of the arranged marriage which disintegrates into abuse is a very real situation but placed within the plot it could be regarded as overblown fiction. The denouement was really no surprise. Verdict: could do better.
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on 17 December 2013
I have just read A Private Business followed by this one, the next in the series. I loved them both. The characters are entirely believable, and the ones we need to like are also entirely likable. The descriptions of life in that part of London really ring true, as does the dialogue (don't believe the reviewers who says it's a caricature; it definitely is not). Nadel writes into the dialogue the casual racism that is part of the local vernacular, while distinguishing it from the vicious racism and sexism that is also all too prevalent.

Mumtaz is emerging as a character of genuine nobility and courage, and I look forward to knowing what she does next.
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on 5 January 2014
I really enjoyed the first book in the series and this second book didn't disappoint either. It was possible to see the ending coming but that did not detract from what was an excellent well thought-out plot which continued at a good pace throughout. Excellent characterisation - Barbara Nadel certainly knows Istanbul but she knows the East end of London too. I hope there are more in this series.
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on 7 June 2015
Again it's a history lesson coupled with a good mystery and a look at the gangster of London. I enjoyed the police detective Vi who is a great character.
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on 3 February 2014
interesting take on cross cultural underworld life in the East End of London, though some of the language not quite convincing. Good story though
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on 22 August 2014
A nail biting story with many twists. I don't know how Barbara continues to think up such fascinating and complex stories. Excellent
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on 5 July 2014
Excellent as are all her books
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