One of Us

2 Mins read

Written by Iain Rowan — Iain Rowan has earned something of a cult following for his short fiction and after publishing two excellent collections he has finally released a full length novel. One of Us began life as an entry to the Crime Writer Associations’ Debut Dagger award for which it was shortlisted. After reading it I can see why the judges were so impressed.

One of Us is an ambitious piece of work with Rowan choosing an Ossetian woman as his protagonist, writing across gender and racial lines, and placing her in the twilight world of London’s illegal immigrants. Anna has fled her homeland after witnessing the death of her brother and father at the hands of thugs – she knows she will die too if she stays and so she washes up in London, finds work in a cafe and tries to stay under the radar.

Anna has skills beyond making coffee and wiping tables though. At home she was a medical student, almost fully qualified. So when gangster Corgan needs a bullet wound cleaned up with no questions asked, Anna is drawn into his organisation. She is principled enough to hate what Corgan is but he can give her the one thing she desperately needs, legal status in England. It’s an offer she can’t refuse. She lives a dual life from then on, mostly just another invisible migrant worker in a cafe, but when Corgan calls she must answer. It is a slow seduction into doing wrong, one mirrored by Anna’s relationship with Corgan’s right hand man Danny, a charming piece of no-good who she is at once attracted to and repulsed by.

Inevitably things take a darker turn. Elena, one of Corgan’s highly-specialised prostitutes, is brought to Anna for repair work. Anna wants nothing to do with it and Corgan shows her exactly what her protestations are worth. A bond is forming between Elena and Anna already, and when Danny tells her about a brewing coup in Corgan’s organisation, hinging on one of Elena’s clients, Anna begins to see an opportunity to get both of them out.

Iain Rowan is a writer with a fine eye for the unexpected and he brings that to play here. There’s no glamour in his conception of this world of gangsters and casual brutality, and it is all the more effective for that. The pace is slow, reflecting the grind of Anna’s life, and a narrative loaded with creeping menace, which draws you through and keeps you turning the pages. Ultimately the book’s success lies with the character of Anna – she’s an engaging heroine and you want to see her come through this trial.

One of Us is an unconventional novel, intriguing and strongly written, showing a side of immigration which is often overlooked by crime writers. Fans of Iain Rowan will find him as assured as ever and for everyone else, prepare to enjoy.


CFL Rating: 4 Stars

Related posts

The Waiter by Ajay Chowdhury

Some crime books have you hiding behind the cushions, while others make you cringe and shut your eyes in disgust… In a first for this reviewer, The Waiter made me hungry! Seems appropriate, then, that for the book’s online launch party, a number of reviewers…

The Final Round by Bernard O’Keeffe

What is it with fictional detectives and music? Inspector Morse, of course, was a huge opera fan, DCI Banks loves a bit of jazz with classical thrown in and it’s been the same score since Sherlock Holmes picked up his violin. Now we have a country…

The Captive

After the lockdowns we’ve endured, how would you feel if you were forced by the justice system to host a caged prisoner in your home? This is what happens to Hannah in Deborah O’Connor’s thriller, when she is effectively handed a life sentence, as she…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Crime Fiction Lover