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[787] Deception on His Mind – Elizabeth George


“We persuade ourselves to believe all manner of falsehood when our self-interest guides us. Then, when the worst befalls us, we’re left to gaze back over our actions. We wonder whether one of them might have been the cause of disaster.” (Ch.17, p.443)

It’s a little too long, but Deception on His Mind is a rich and engrossing novel that portrays a contemporary England that is culturally complex and simmering with tension. It opens with a murder of a man, Haytham Querashi, recently arrived from Pakistan, who is to wed the daughter of a local businessman. His death triggers riot of Pakistanis demanding a thorough investigation on the matter and equal treatment on minority groups in general. Behind the pandemonium is Muhannad, the hot-headed Muslim activist whose sister Shalah is arranged to marry Querashi. But Shalah has her secret too—she is in love with an Englishman Theo Shaw, scion of a wealthy developer, and is pregnant. Since everything about an Asian daughter was to be safeguarded and kept in trust for future husband, from the molding of her mind to protection of her chastity, her being impregnated by a foreigner is a huge disgrace to her family. Even Querashi’s death does not end Shalah’s obligation to her family because she will have to marry whoever her family chooses for her. In the same way, the marriage is an advantage to Querashi, whose homosexuality must be hidden, as he didn’t want to bear the scorn of his people and his religion. If Shalah and Querashi’s secrets are safe with each other, who did Querashi know that could have murdered him?

Although the killing has racial overtones, other motives arise—love, jealousy, sexuality, religion, and greed. Smuggling, burglary, and other crimes also come to light. Everyone involved has the share of secrets. Hidden in the plot are subtle clues to the solution, which hinges on Muslim laws and family tradition, but stems from selfish desire The solution does come as a surprise, and sheds light in how we see ourselves in terms of the relativity of wrong-doing, and how we justify our behavior. Despite being a bit too long, the book is intriguing, as all sorts of secrets and surprises figure into a well-wrought narrative.

713 pp. Bantam. Pocket Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]

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