You Don't Know Me
By Imran Mahmood
An unnamed defendant stands accused of murder. The night before closing speeches he decides to put his truth across and sacks his lawyer who dealt only in half-truths. In order know what happens the reader needs to know him. The reader is the jury. Do you think he did it?
I chose to read You Don’t Know Me because I liked the sound of it when I read the blurb. When I first started reading it I thought I was going to hate it. As I continued to read it though I realised that I was enjoying reading it and that what I was feeling at the beginning was not hate. This book took me right outside of my comfort zone and placed me smack bang in the middle of a world where drugs, prostitution and gang violence are so commonplace that they have become the norm.
Imran Mahmood tells the story of an unnamed defendant up for murder charges after the shooting of a young boy. The night before closing speeches the defendant decides to sack his lawyer and present his own closing speech and his own truth.
He states that the story his lawyer presented was one that based on half-truths and what he considered to be believable, the ‘plausible story.’ The speech he gives is long and rambling and often takes the reader on seemingly unrelated routes but this is one of the strengths of the book. It turns the protagonist from a seemingly hostile stranger to someone you can empathise with.
The defendant explains he had a dilemma.
Do I let him speak to you in your language but telling only half the story, or do I do it myself and tell the full story with the risk that you won’t understand none of it?
The evidence against him is strong but he states he can explain it all. He knows that the jury have a certain idea of him right now but that idea probably isn’t accurate.
Maybe you need to get to know me first. The real me.
“They want you to think I’m a no brain lazy kid who go into some random street and shoot a next man up for nothing. Don’t be fooled though.”
He claims he is innocent and if they just listen to him maybe he can prove it.
He acknowledges that he knew the deceased boy, Jamil, and what the prosecutor failed to mention is that he was a gang member and a drug dealer.
The defendant, on the other hand, claims to have had legitimate employment in a garage and managed to sidestep the gang life. Not an easy feat.
“If you got some kills and you can handle yourself, like I could, you might be okay. But what if you aint? You got no choices. It’s either take a beating or you join a gang and get paid and get respect. And then it just becomes a part of your life. It becomes a normal thing for a kid to sell drugs in school. It becomes a normal thing for a kid to stab up some next kid for no reason. And once it’s normal for you, you don’t have any reasons to change it. It just becomes life. Your life.”
The defendant brings the reader deep into his world and though the ending left me dissatisfied I can’t say this book wasn’t an enjoyable read.
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