Imran Mahmood’s second book, I Know What I Saw, is a crime thriller with much more on its mind than crime. The main character, Xander Shute has been homeless and living on the streets of London for thirty years. And the narrative is as much about the trauma that pushed him into that life and the impacts of years of living on the streets.
When I Know What I Saw opens, Xander has found a place to sleep under a slide in a Hyde Park playground. But he is on someone else’s patch and before long he has been in a fight and is back on the street looking for somewhere else to sleep. Against his better judgement he enters what he thinks is an open, abandoned house and while there, from his position behind a couch, witnesses a murder. When he is picked up by the police for assaulting the man in the playground, Xander tells them about the murder that he saw. But there is no evidence of a crime and the house, which he is sure he entered, does not look as he described.
I Know What I Saw is a psychological thriller in that it hinges on the psychological state of its main character. The trauma in Xander’s life propelled him to live on the streets and thirty years of that life have had an additional impact on his psyche and his understanding of the world. This is not one of those narratives where a character has amnesia and events come back to them in some comprehensible order. Rather it is the slow rebuilding of a shattered memory, prompted by particular events or stresses.
Imran Mahmood has delivered a unique and engaging thriller. The narrative is often disjointed and confusing but this is deliberate, reflecting the fragile state of its protagonist. Mahmood does not either exalt or condemn Xander’s decision to live on the street, but does explore those life choices and their impacts. But this is still a thriller, with plenty of intriguing questions to be answered to keep the pages turning, and a resolution that is both satisfying and tragic.