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City of Tiny Lights    by Patrick Neate order for
City of Tiny Lights
by Patrick Neate
Order:  USA  Can
Riverhead, 2006 (2005)
Hardcover, Softcover
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

London can be a dangerous place. Just ask Tommy Akhtar, 'London's best {perhaps only} Ugandan-Indian private eye, devoted son {at least most of the time}, {and} hard-drinking {which is a remarkable understatement} veteran of the Mujahideen.'

Tommy is a reasonably successful P.I., and he always has plenty of clients. For example, Mr. X's wife ran off 'with some scumbag' and took her husband's car with her; the husband 'wasn't too vexed about' the wife, but he hires Tommy to recover his beloved Beamer. Mrs. Y is more than a just a little annoyed that her 'rooster's spending a lot of time away from the hen house ... Perhaps he's fluffing another pillow says Tommy and perhaps the pillow's pink. Or perhaps he's shooting dice or perhaps he's shooting smack'; in any event, Mrs. Y has hired Tommy to find out if the old bird is up to 'something sexual.' And Mrs. Z hires Tommy when her sixteen-year-old daughter ran away, and she 'called the Old Bill but what were they going to do?'

Those clients, however, are simply what Tommy calls 'Easy money.' When sexy prostitute Melody Chase shows up in Tommy's rundown office, life as a P.I. suddenly gets much more complicated. She wants Tommy to find out what has happened to Natasha, her missing roommate and fellow working girl. Quicker than you can say Exoticmelody and Sexyrussian, or quicker than you check out their websites, Tommy gets involved in a case that soon leads to a murdered Parliament member, government scandals, family problems, drugs, sex, and - a true sign of the times - terrorism.

Let me make a promise to the adventurous reader who is willing to be confronted by the dark humor and colorful language of City of Tiny Lights: You will be easily charmed by Tommy Akhtar - a fellow you can think of being something like the results of a Raymond Chandler and Salman Rushdie collaborative effort. Akhtar is, however, Patrick Neate's unique creation, a complicated man of vibrant passions (including cricket and family) and unrepentant weaknesses (including cigarettes and Wild Turkey); moreover, you will thoroughly enjoy (if that is the proper word given the context of the novel's more serious plot and themes) your descent into the 'gritty, sexy, treacherous ... and seedy underbelly' of contemporary London. Filled with bizarre characters, rendered in colorful (jargon-heavy) prose, and tinted with some of the finest satire you'll find anywhere in literary mystery fiction, City of Tiny Lights is a first-class entertainment by one of the most interesting new voices in contemporary fiction. Patrick Neate - author of three very different and acclaimed novels (Musungu Jim and the Great Chief Tuloko; Twelve Bar Blues; and The London Pigeon Wars) has been called 'shrewd and stimulating' (Nick Hornby), 'ingenious and witty' (The New York Times), and 'colorful and compelling' (USA Today); and as The Daily Telegraph has announced, 'Patrick Neate is an extraordinary story-teller and a fearless one, whose writing illuminates the deep structure of our society and fires a warning shot over complacency and intolerance.'

So, take the plunge into a surprisingly different London and find out for yourself why so many reviewers and critics are already huge fans of Patrick Neate's City of Tiny Lights.

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