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City of Tiny Lights

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  348 ratings  ·  70 reviews
From award-winning novelist Patrick Neate, a literary mystery that introduces a new kind of British detective, Ugandan-Indian Tommy Akhtar, and a side of London that the mystery world has never seen.

A contemporary murder mystery set in the heart of London, this is the story of Tommy Akhtar, hard-drinking veteran of the Mujahideen, devoted son, sometime private investigat
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Paperback, 325 pages
Published April 4th 2006 by Riverhead Trade (first published 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 558)
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Trish
I have been waiting a few days to write about this book because I wasn't sure what I thought or how I felt about it. But now I've finished Intuition and I'm itching to try to explain how incredibly kick ass it is, so I have to deal with Tiny Lights first, and I guess the contrast kinda clarifies things.

I adored Neate's London Pigeon Wars. OK, I didn't always get the pigeon parts, the weird bird patois, but I stuck with it and I can't immediately recall any other literary ending that has affecte
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Snotchocheez

3.5 stars

Frankly, I was a bit dubious about this one, a friend's glowing recommendation of a neo-noir potboiler set in London. Fifty pages in, I was still scratching my head why she gushed over City of Tiny Lights, a book that was, to be sure, leaving me with a massive headache every time I cracked it open to decipher the totally foreign (to me) argot and vernacular of gutter-slang English (like, say, gumshoe detective-speak as paraphrased by the rap band The Streets, with a liberal dousing of g
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Jamal
A modern tale in the best tradition of hard-boiled detective stories. Written like Dashel Hammet with an education in geo-politics. It's flaws are easily forgotten as you come to care for the characters, even feeling a jolt of adrenaline a few times.

The heavy dose of timely (biting?) political and social commentary is not out of place as it would be in other stories of the type owing to the characters and London itself, a place where you cannot escape the World if you tried.

It's a book devoted t
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Judy
I was disappointed when I first began reading this random library pick. I couldn't help but think it was going to be yet another noir crime novel with a very predictable plot. In many ways it was just that and in many ways it was so much more.
The book is set in the dregs of London and the hero is a Ugandan-Indian P.I. The level of detail that Neate goes to in developing this character is remarkable. I didn't care so much for the story as much as the backstory. The history of the character was s
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Shinn
This was given to me by a friend (I adore hand-me-down books! It feels like you're reading them with a friend beside you and I like wondering how the previous owner would have reacted to this or that part of the story).

It was the cover that attracted me at first though, not the book. The cover is delightfully reminiscent of Lego and a read in itself - I had a great time, discovering all the little stories in it - the cheeky, the cute and the plain weird. But along with the superfun cover, I end
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Neil
Read this back in 2007, but just found it again. I can't get away from the language, the rapid-fire staccato dialogue of immigrant London forming a rhythmically paced post 911 noir mystery. This is a book that feels like sticking your head smoke filled Faraday cage and forgetting to not touch the sides. Neate creates a seamy but inviting cast of the damaged and determined, revealing more insight into what multicultural really means in today's fearful, terror fueled world.

It was relevant pre-Oba
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Mcgum
I'm sure I missed all of the intricacies of the cricket references, but otherwise I, as an American, didn't have that much trouble with the British slang. It takes a little while to get used to, but you can generally figure out what slang is referring to, and after getting a little bit familiar with it, the book is a quick read.

The ending seemed a bit too easy and hastily wrapped up. The journey there was entertaining enough, and the main character was interesting. Otherwise there wasn't really
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Fırat Kar
City of Tiny Lights by Patrick Neate Fırat Kar L9-10
Interesting in detective stories, or noir novels? Here is the modern Sherlock Holmes, City of tiny lights! The book is about a modern British detective, Tommy Akhtar. He works as a private investigator. He is a Ugandan-Indian and he’s the son of a veteran mujahedeen. He’s alcoholic, chain-smoker and he has really poor family life. Cases are happening in London streets. I choose this book, because cover art was interesting to me as a pixel model
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Ubik 2.0
Un improbabile ma simpatico detective

E’ un libro che procede, pressoché lungo tutta la sua durata, su uno stretto binario fra l’estrema simpatia effervescente del protagonista io narrante (anglo-paki-indo-ugandese, fanatico di cricket al punto da trarne una filosofia di vita) e una vicenda londinese che la quarta di copertina vorrebbe spacciare da “thriller ambizioso” e “classico noir” ma che di per sé è di una banalità da sbadiglio.

Il lettore quindi è di continuo sbalzato fra il divertimento
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Steve Poltrock
Patrick Neate, the author of City of Tiny Lights, is the winner of several international awards including the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award. This is the first book by Neate I have read, and I look forward to reading others. This book is somewhat different from anything else I have read. One can immediately say it is a detective story because the main character is a private detective. But it is also a story of immigrants. It reminded me of reading science fiction (although no science is ...more
Mark Farley
There is nothing like discovering a new voice, is there? Not that Patrick Neate is in anyway a new voice. "City of Tiny Lights" is his fifth novel. Very much a Londoner's novel, it is a fitting tribute to the city and one to the kind of London that we live in today, often not presented in media forms quite like this. A nod then to everything that is great about our capital. It's ethnic diversity, but also especially, it's shortfalls of which it has many.But what wonderful oration and delicate fl ...more
Gracey
I liked this book well-enough, but it was difficult to read. The author seemed to have assumed two things about his readers; that they are familiar with British slang and with cricket. Neither of these are true of me. I don't have more than a passing familiarity with British slang and I know nothing about cricket. I can often figure out what's being said by foreign authors from the context, but not with this book. He just threw out sentences composed entirely of British slang and didn't help non ...more
Steve
I totally picked up this book because of the pixel art cover (and the sale price at Powell's). But I was pleasantly surprised that the book was actually quite decent, serious. A good half of it was the way the writer used language; I don't know if everyone in London talks like this, but I really liked the lingo. As a mystery, it's not that suspenseful, but it has plenty of colorful characters and twists and turns. It would help if I could understand cricket, for real.

The author appears to be Cau
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Hester
Tommy Akhtar is Phillip Marlow's heir. I have read modern noir books, but none of them capture the 40s flavor. Early Harry Dresden had a similar feel, but somehow Tommy Akhtar's London slang, obsession with cricket, and alcoholism are that era, updated. Akhtar is troubled, squared. After his mother died, he became a mujahideen in the Afghan/Soviet war, came back mentally ill, and then became an alcoholic detective. In spite of his drinking, he has ties to the local community in the form of his f ...more
Sarah
I picked this one up on a lark, at the Friends of the Library book sale, because I thought the cover was clever and it was $1. Little finds like this at the sale is what keeps me going back. This was such a fun book to read. I found myself carrying it around in my too overloaded purse, looking for opportunities to sneak another few pages.

This book is a hard boiled, neo-noir style, detective mystery set in London in the post 911 age. I loved the characters, the language, the setting, the storylin
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Darrenl
This is an entertaining and thought provoking book which relocates the Raymond Chandler detective style to modern day London. Neate pays homage to every noir cliche - from the mysterious femme fatale with the deadly case to the wise cracking private dick but it's still infused with his own original style and as the story develops it becomes a comment on London's unique multicultural soup and the post 9/11 world. It's clear that this was a labour of love for Neate letting him indulge his love of ...more
Greg Hardin
This book was going pretty good until the end. You know how you're holding, oh-so-much of the book left and by what you've read, you know the author couldn't possibly wrap it all up with total satisfaction? Yeah, a pretty abrupt- (and everything sort of worked out)- sort of ending. Some of the prose was just stall and page filler which, I'm not totally against but its more telling when you find it towards the end and the ends haven't been tied up yet.
The twist at the end explains something of wh
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Gail Harcourt-Brown
A fascinating idea and some brilliant writing. However, the novel suffers from too much drinking, smoking (to the point where the narrator does not seem to getting any oxygen at all), a lot of long cricket analogies, and a narrator who is so disaffected and detached we start to feel more sympathy for the people around him than for him. In addition, his father’s constant refusal to speak plainly becomes very annoying.

Nevertheless, the novel offers a lot of valuable insights into a world most of u
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Alicia Farmer
Between English slang, street slang and cricket references, I only understood about two-thirds of the book. And still I liked it. The narrator was a stereotypical hard-drinking, hard-smoking, hard-tongued P.I. who was cut right from the noir mold. Except when he wasn't. Those moments gave him dimension and moved me to some empathy that took the book beyond straight entertainment.

I don't read enough mysteries to know if the plot was a good one or not. It kept me guessing.

This was a great surpri
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Marcelo
Enjoyed it. Neate writes wonderfully and, as with any good noir, character and social commentary (the realities of immigration and anti-immigrant prejudice in western society, the symbiotic relationship between those who will enact terror and those who will exploit the fear of it to cling to power) both inform and advance the main crime plot . Both Tommy Akhtar and his father make indelible characters I'd love to visit with again (while at the same time I could use a bit less of Av's quasi-Ali-G ...more
Forest
This caught my eye from the remainder pile due to the cover art, which isn't even original to the book but taken from a series of posters. The book itself starts as a semi-parodic multicultural modern noir, complete with tongue-in-cheek hard-boiled detective novel prose, piles on cricket references and crazy British slang (the word "geezer" must appear no less than 500 times), throws in a timely suicide train bomber subplot, and somewhere along the way manages to turn into a biting social satire ...more
Rachael
The story was good enough - British-Ugandan-Indian provate eye who is solidly small time until he lands in the middle of a messy case - but it was Tommy's attitude and turn of phrase, plus the occasional digression into the nature of race, loyalty, patriotism, terrorism, colonialism, etc., that made it great. Although I might have appreciated it all the more if I understood even the slightest thing about cricket, I was not compelled to read up on that. Still, I might even read it again some time ...more
Jessica
Jul 14, 2008 Jessica rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Hard-boiled fiction fans
This was a completely enjoyable, fast-paced, neo-noir crime story. Not normally a genre I enjoy, but the setting (London) and the characters (mostly Pakistani and Indian working class)added some twists and depth not normally seen in American works. The 3-star rating has nothing to do with the quality of the story and writing--it's really an excellent book. But, alas, at the end of the day I cannot make myself like hard-boiled detective novels, try as I might!
Doug
The protagonist is an londonstani (pakistani living in london) now trying to work as a private investigator. Some of the material is a bit raw, but it was, I thought, an interesting intro into the problems of aculturization in England. The mystery that is the plot is well done, if a bit convoluted, but it's probably the convolutions that serve as a vehicle to showing the challanges of the cultural changes.
Rachel
Reading this was kind of like trying to read a Guy Ritchie movie. Lots of British expressions and Cockney Rhyming Slang I didn't quite get, but it still added to the overall effect. A good mix of detective noir and modern British life, silly references to cricket (none of which I got) and serious comments on racism and terrorism. Once you figure out Tommy's voice, this is a good read.
Evelyn
It was a really good story. The author has a unique voice. I just wish there were more to the ending. More explanation, more wrap up, more ending.
jules
Clever, fast, and far more complex than you initially believe it to be. Pay attention to the subtexts. The cover fits this book really well: Initially, it looks like a silly, fun bit of something merely meant to take up space. But when you look more closely, the details are incredibly fine and there are things going on you would not have expected.
Hlochte
this is an interesting post colonial mystery in the hard boiled detective tradition. it is set in london and the main character is a pakistani immigrant by way of uganda. could be a difficult read if you are unfamiliar with british slang and colloquialisms but worth it for the memorable characters and unique perspective. good but not life changing.
Allen Lotz
After getting accustomed to the slang I looked forward to each time I could reenter this interesting view of little seen London. While reading as a detective story with loose threads to tie up in the "mystery" story, it becomes a much bigger novel that speaks of immigration, xenophobia, and terrorism. Very enjoyable.
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