Mahmood Mattan is a fixture in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay, 1952, which bustles with Somali and West Indian sailors, Maltese businessmen and Jewish families. He is a father, chancer, petty criminal. He is a smooth-talker with rakish charm and an eye for a good game. He is many things, but he is not a murderer.
So when a shopkeeper is brutally killed and all eyes fall on him, Mahmood isn’t too worried. Since his Welsh wife Laura kicked him out for racking up debts he has wandered the streets more often, and there are witnesses who allegedly saw him enter the shop that night. But Mahmood has escaped worse scrapes, and he is innocent in this country where justice is served. Love lends him immunity too: the fierce love of Laura, who forgives his gambling in a heartbeat, and his children. It is only in the run-up to the trial, as the prospect of returning home dwindles, that it will dawn on Mahmood that he is in a fight for his life – against conspiracy, prejudice and cruelty – and that the truth may not be enough to save him.
Nadifa Mohamed was born in 1981 in Hargeisa, Somaliland. At the age of four she moved with her family to London. She is the author of Black Mamba Boy, The Orchard of Lost Souls and, most recently, The Fortune Men, which is shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize. She has received both The Betty Trask Award and the Somerset Maugham Award, as well as numerous other prize nominations, for her fiction. She was named as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2013. She contributes regularly to the Guardian and the BBC.