“Irvine’s novel encapsulates terrorism and draws you into a situation that could become reality“
Genre: thriller / political thriller
London. 2023. It could be the future. Lapsed Muslim tech entrepreneur and controversial comedian, Amala Hackeem, dons a burqa and travels to the women’s group at the Education Centre in Tower Hamlets’ sharia community. What is she doing there? Ella Russell, a struggling journalist, leaves home in pursuit of the story of her life. Desperate for the truth, she is about to learn the true cost of the war on terror. University professor and expert in radicalisation, Millie Stephenson, arrives at Downing Street to brief the Prime Minister and Home Secretary. Nervous and excited, she finds herself at the centre of a nation taken hostage. Then it becomes personal. By the end of the day, the lives of all three women are changed forever. They will discover if their friendship since university can truly survive secrets and fear.
Why I love it
This is a very topical novel that takes place in the not-too-distant future just after Brexit. Irvine sketches quite a frightening image of the UK, with Prevent and Protect Centres (PPCs) and the police scrutinising every non-white individual with a beard. As a reader, it makes you wonder whether that is what our country has become, and whether or not we can do anything to change that. Whilst Amala uses her comedy shows to brush off the seriousness of her brother being questioned, she evidently fears for him and the way their everyday lives have become.
One of the strengths of this book is that the chapters flick between different moments in time and between different characters. Although it is initially tricky to follow, it is a really helpful way of building an overall picture of what is going on; it allows you to draw connections together across the three women’s lives and see how an event in the past remains relevant in the present. The alternating chapters also made me eager and excited to read on, and I was constantly telling myself, ‘just one more chapter’, as the previous one ended on a cliff-hanger. It is quite astonishing how all the main action takes place within a single day, given that so much happens simultaneously. This made for a very thrilling reading experience.
I felt that I could not get enough of this novel, particularly towards the end as I was desperate to find out what would happen and how the situation would be resolved. Irvine does a superb job of making you think about the moral implications of political actions and how consequences still manifest despite the passage of time. Whilst some scenes made me squeamish, they reflect the sometimes-brutal nature of the war on terror in which we find ourselves.
Amala’s brother, Aafa, is a character who I felt a lot of sympathy for. He is brainwashed through religion and his vulnerable status as a young person who is neither devoutly Muslim, nor completely Western. His actions also highlight how despite the closeness we feel to our family and friends, we may never truly know them, how they feel, or why they behave the way they do. This renders Aafa’s actions all the more tragic for his family and friends.
I was drawn into the world of this novel very quickly, with scene after scene full of tension and anticipation of what was to come. The big shock came just over halfway through and that made me even more keen to read on, find out truths and see how the book would end. Whilst I would have liked more chapters from Ella’s and Amala’s perspectives, I understand why the majority of the chapters had to be from Millie’s point of view, namely to avoid spoiling the plot.
Overall, A Killing Sin is a gripping thriller that immerses you into a world of fear, secrets, and danger. Irvine encapsulates the nature of the war on terror and creates a future that is not too dissimilar to our present. She is an author to watch and I cannot wait to read the sequel to this emotional and action-packed début.
Why you should read it
If you are looking for a thriller / political thriller that is gripping from start to finish, this will be an ideal book for you.