Amir Ali has come to London under the pretense of telling his story to Captain William T. Meadows for study. See, Amir has convinced Meadows that he is a thug. His reasons, as you will learn, are sound but the results are unplanned. During his residence in London, a series of gruesome murders takes place. And while the locals are searching high and low for the culprit, they inevitably begin to turn an eye to the obvious scapegoat -- the confessed thug living in their midst.
There are a number of really cool things about Tabish Khair's debut -- the setting for one. Victorian London is a fascinating place. The time period lends itself to some really interesting avenues for a writer, like that of phrenology. A truly bafflingly misguided search for answers into a mystery that has plagued people for centuries: is there a quantifiable predictor of behavior. In this case, violent behavior. The idea was basically that a person's skull was evidence of a person's personality. And of course the idea gave way to some pretty ridiculous theories all based in the pseudoscience of the day.
Amir, while he is untruthful, has led everyone to believe that he is a murderous criminal. And being a foreigner to boot -- in a time and a place that was definitely prone to suspecting outsiders simply for being outsiders -- leaves Amir with no choice but to discover the identity of the killer himself.
Which leads to another fascinating aspect of the tale -- Victorian grave robbers. See we come full circle back to my anthropology courses I've discussed here before and common themes that appeal to me in fiction!
I will confess, as I've seen others on the tour do, I did not have much of an idea of the historic use of the term "thug" as it's used here. But Khair does a great job of explaining things in a way that a reader unfamiliar with any of these aspects can still get the gist and enjoy the story. In fact, there's an underlying sense of humor to the tale along with the more serious (if you really think about them) things being discussed.
The Thing About Thugs is an interesting period mystery with a clever plot and a unique structure (which a lot of the other bloggers have mentioned). I had less of an issue with the switches in narrator than some, but will admit there were a couple of places where it became a bit murky for a few lines.
For more stops on the tour, visit the official TLC tour page here.