Nadel, Barbara - 'A Private Business'
Lee Arnold is a former police detective, now working independently as a private investigator, though he keeps strong links with his former colleagues. Although his finances are terrible he realises that he needs an assistant and employs Mumtaz Hakim, a young widow whose husband has recently been murdered, leaving her destitute. Her teenager step-daughter still lives with her and Mumtaz struggles to keep Shazia’s life as stable as she can while trying to pay the mortgage and debts her husband left her, much to the annoyance of her parents who want her to marry again.
Lee and Mumtaz are approached by Maria Peters, a well-known, wealthy and very controversial comedian, for help. They need the fee from her case, even though Lee's instinct tells him that her problem is of her own making. Maria Peters wants them to prove that she is being watched and that someone is getting into her house and moving things around. Despite top of the range cameras outside and in and twenty-four-hour surveillance, they find no proof that anyone is getting into the property or even that Maria is disturbing her ornaments herself. Maria has found God and is a member of a fundamentalist church that has been founded by a well known con-man – and Lee and Mumtaz are suspicious that he is somehow involved with the aim of getting her money.
Viv Collins, one of Lee’s police colleagues is charged with finding a flasher and also struggling to understand why a young man has stabbed his friend, seemingly for no motive. She feels that the pastors from their churches know more than they are telling her and is increasingly suspicious when the tentative link with Paul Grint, Maria’s pastor, is discovered. Meanwhile Mumtaz has concerns of her own: apparently being stalked by a young thug; her daughter is frightened of the old man next door and women are being terrorised around the Olympic site by a man flashing at them.
As always, Barbara Nadel weaves an intricate story around the lives of ordinary people and the devastation that is caused when people are not what they seem. Her writing makes the reader care about her characters. This is the first novel featuring Lee Arnold and Mumtaz Karim. It is set in London in the shadow of the Olympic village and brings to life the place, setting and time. I look forward to reading more of their story.
A good read, very enjoyable.
Susan White, England