In a confident and gripping tale of race, crime, and inner-city conflicts, Rod Duncan’s Backlash is a truly great example of contemporary British crime fiction.

The book, first of a trilogy series told from differing perspectives, was published by Simon and Schuster in 1997 and is priced at just £6.99 – an absolute steal!

 “Written with confidence, skill and sheer page-turning compulsion, this is what contemporary British crime fiction should be: unafraid to ask difficult questions of our society, knowing the answers are never truly black and white.”

–  Martyn Waites


Leicester is a multicultural haven, it is a place where all and any culture can set up their world and live, and yet, in the time it takes for one van to be turned on its head, so too can the dynamics of the city be upturned…

Mo Akanbai is an inspector from Leicester’s police unit; an officer from the community relations department. She is of dual heritage and prides herself on the work that she does. However, when vicious campaigns of terror begin to leak through the streets of Leicester, haunting its communities, Mo believes she has uncovered a conspiracy that falls far deeper beyond that of the expected race-hate crimes and gangs usually held responsible. As riots break out, cracks in the outside world are not the only ones to surface as it appears someone on the inside may hold a grudge too and, if that wasn’t enough, Mo is harnessing a heartbreak that only serves to complicate matters after a love affair with fellow officer, Paresh…

Backlash is a tale of sheer determination and brilliance. As Mo’s world begins to crash around her and she starts to doubt everything that she once believed was right with her city, it is her true, heroic spirit and her desire to stay and fight that results in Duncan’s readers falling in love with his central protagonist.

‘Never let them know when they get under your skin. That’s another of our rules. Worth remembering if you want to get on in this place.’ (p. 22)

However, what is most surprisingly fantastic about Duncan’s text is his intelligent use of character voice in Backlash. His implementation of a first person narration and, even more importantly, that of a woman, is an absolute success in ensuring that his readers grasp his story as he would have wanted them to. Duncan is able to show this racially-driven world of hate and violent crime through a woman’s eyes, allowing her vulnerability to shine through from the words on the story’s page (with hints of a relationship failing and unplanned pregnancy), and this manipulation makes her much more identifiable to his readers – promoting a female readership. Mo’s acts of heroism become much more memorable. In this sense, Duncan is playing with the conventions of crime fiction; his hero is a character of whom such bravery would not be expected. She is an original and, as one reads this text, the confidence with which Duncan writes becomes obvious: we are not drawn to the fact that a male author wrote this book, but are, instead, lost in Mo’s story; a fight for her right as a female to stand up for all that she believes in in her male-dominated society.

What I particularly like about Backlash though is Duncan’s intelligent use of sentence structure to ensure his novel is fast-paced and serving to embrace the tension, as any good crime fiction story should. His decision to utilise short, staccato sentences makes for a rhythm that keeps his story rolling and his reader’s turning the pages to discover more. His choice of present tense further emphasizes this necessary movement throughout the book as his readers become lost in the ‘here and now’ with his characters, requesting the truth from our broken down, British society.

“With its compulsive style and gripping plot brilliantly evoking the dynamic mix of the inner city, Backlash marks the debut of an outstanding new British talent.”

Pick it up, I dare you, because I bet you won’t put it down once you do.





Like this? Then you’ll really enjoy Rod Duncan’s Breakbeat and Burnout.


[NOTE]: With massive thanks to Rod Duncan for taking his time to speak with us about his career and time in the writing industry this month.


Thank you for reading.
(C) The Student Wordsmith
and Sophie-Louise Hyde, 2013.