It's easy to judge between right and wrong - isn't it?Not until you hear a convincing truth.Now it's up to you to decide...
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?
You Don't Know Me by Imran Mahmood was published on 4 May 2017 in hardback by Michael Joseph, and is the author's debut novel.
Incredibly clever, and like nothing that I've read before, You Don't Know Me captivated me from the opening paragraph. This is a skilfully written story with a forceful voice that slinks its way into the reader's head, and no matter how hard you try to shake it off, its there, needling away until you read more, and more. Even when you turn that final page, the narrator's tone and language and startling story will linger, with questions that may not be answered, ever.
We've all followed the big court cases; on the TV, in the newspapers or via the internet. We've heard the smooth-talking lawyers who could persuade you that the moon is made of cheese, with their clever words and their polished performance. They could be actors on a screen. But do we really ever get to know the real story? We hear what the professionals want to tell us about the defendant, we judge on the information that is fed to us. So do the jury, and they are the people that hold the fate of the accused in their hands.
Imagine if the defendant decides that he doesn't want his QC to say any more. Imagine that this young black guy from South London who is accused of murder, sacks the professional and makes his own closing statement. That is what happens in You Don't Know Me, and it is thrilling and fascinating and opinion-changing.
The narrator is accused of murder. The prosecution has eight pieces of evidence that make him appear guilty. Slowly and surely, over ten days of speaking, he breaks down each piece of evidence for the jury. He explains in minute detail each of the points. He tells things that his QC didn't mention. Some of it appears far-fetched, but then so does his whole life, especially to the members of the jury who have about as much idea about gang culture as the reader does.
You Don't Know Me is thrilling, daring and mesmeric. It is frightening, the author does not sugar-coat anything. The reader learns about the sordid and the cruel, alongside the dangers. It is a study in how young men can be influenced by those amongst them, about how easy it can be go from ordinary boy on the street to a man accused of murder.
The author's insight is astonishing and the ending is genius. Surely another contender for my Top Books of 2017 list.
My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and invited me to take place on this blog tour.
Photo courtesy of Bill Waters
Imran Mahmood is a Criminal defence barrister with over twenty years' experience in the Crown Court and Court of Appeal.
He specialises in Legal Aid cases involving crimes such as murder and other serious violence as well as fraud and sexual offences.
He was born in Liverpool and now lives in London with his wife and daughter.
Follow him on Twitter @imranmahmood777