An unnamed defendant stands accused of murder. Just before the Closing Speeches, the young man sacks his lawyer, and decides to give his own defence speech.
He tells us that his barrister told him to leave some things out. Sometimes, the truth can be too difficult to explain, or believe. But he thinks that if he’s going to go down for life, he might as well go down telling the truth.
There are eight pieces of evidence against him. As he talks us through them one by one, his life is in our hands. We, the reader – member of the jury – must keep an open mind till we hear the end of his story. His defence raises many questions… but at the end of the speeches, only one matters:
Did he do it?
Review: I feel ever so lucky to have received an early review copy of this book (big thank you to Penguin!) because I know, I know, that this is going to be big. I don’t really know how I’m going to formulate a review that will do it even the slightest bit of justice but I have to try so here goes. An unnamed man stands it court, having been accused of murder. He has sacked his lawyer and decides to give the jury his own defence speech. He wants the jury to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and that’s what he gives us. A complete run down of what happened, the events leading up to what happened and the aftermath of what happened. In his own words, he sifts through the evidence and explains it to us; however guilty it makes him look because he’s figured that if he’s going to go down for murder anyway then he wants everyone to know the truth before he does.
But the twist? We, the reader are put in the shoes of a member of the jury. We are spoken to directly, by the defendant to the point we can almost see him standing in front of us whilst we sit on the benches. We are asked to have an open mind, to hear him out and listen, intently to what he’s telling us before we make our decision. Guilty or not guilty? That’s up to us.
This book is risky. The very premise, idea and format of it is risky and it could have very easily not worked. But it did. Oh boy, it did work. It was a risk that well and truly paid off. It was perfectly executed. This book tackles gang culture in London exceptionally deeply; a culture that many, many, many of us will have no idea about and will be shocked at upon reading. But it’s important, so very important that these topics come to light because although this is fiction it could just as easily not be. I can’t help but feel that some people may struggle reading this, with the language that is used because of the gang culture element. Personally, I followed along easily because I used to know people who spoke the way these characters did so it was easy for me to understand the slang that was used.
For example, “some next boy“, basically means the same as “some boy” but by adding the ‘next’ means degrading the person / thing in question or calling it ‘pointless‘ or ‘crap‘. If that makes sense. But, I can’t speak for everyone and even people who aren’t familiar with any of the slang used in this book may pick it up quickly. There are instances where the defendant will explain what some words actually mean and I loved that because he recognised that the people in the jury were not going to be like him – which is a huge feature in this book. I think this book isn’t just a great read but a fantastic opportunity for readers to really immerse themselves in this life, the culture – however different it is from you own and learn more about it.
Being written by a criminal barrister, this book transports you right into the courtroom. Not any old Tom, Dick or Harry could pull off something like this and that is where Imran stands out because he has the experience and the knowledge to get in deep with a book and topic as dark and risky as this that very few people would have and would be willing to write about. It makes you heavily question the justice system but by the end of the book, it makes you question everything. So what’s one more little question?
I also love that the defendant was never named – he could have been any of us. And it also goes to show that you don’t always need a name to truly picture someone and get into their head. A name doesn’t define us. This was an entirely different and fresh reading experience but one that I know some people may have problems with in the way of stereotyping. But if you do, it’s important you read the authors notes before you judge the book too hard or too quickly. The defendant raises some important points and questions throughout the book and the one that stuck with me was this:
I ain’t the same as you and you ain’t the same as me, but you could be too if you tried. So try now. Try and be me.
This book gives us the chance and the opportunity to really get into touch with another human being, one that’s likely had very different experiences to ourselves. A person we would never have met in normal, every day life because we’re not the “same“. A person that inherently, we wouldn’t understand but a person that ultimately teaches us that no matter our colour, race, background, culture – we can all be the same if we allow ourselves to be.