Often life can turn stranger than fiction. And it did with author Omar Shahid Hamid, a serving police officer and counter terrorism expert after his father’s assassination in an IED blast. And this was followed by a Pakistani Taliban attack on his office. Taking a five-year sabbatical, he turned to writing. From this gestation, three superb crime thrillers were born. Each one is as good as they come. His latest crime thriller, The Party Worker, sets the pace from the first page with a botched up murder attempt in New York’s Central Park.
Asad Haider awakens in a hospital bed to recall in flash back the faces of the 64 people he has killed. Finally, the past has caught up with him as the roosters come home to roost. Is it pay back time? Especially for the one who for 28 years has been the party’s hit man, their homegrown executioner in the dark corners of Karachi, a city of 20 million torn asunder by violence. ‘To spread fear when you order a hit, you spray and strike widely against the whole family,’ we are told.
Asad has committed the cardinal sin of turning his back on the Don by defying his instructions for the first time. In this fast paced narrative, it’s an act that sees a predator turn the quarry, the hunter himself becoming the hunted, though he defiantly promises to bring down and destroy the Don—Mohammed Ali Pichkari—the undisputed leader of the United Front Party. Deftly we move through the cobweb of inequity in Pakistan’s largest city where violence and politics are inseparable. The grid wraps up the narrative with the exactitude of a hollow-point bullet detonating on impact.
Hamid’s intimacy with Karachi makes for a good read in which leading the pack of characters is Ismail, a shifty journo on the make, who will use more foul means than fair to feather his own nest; Baba Dacait, the war-lord of the rabbit-warrens of Lyari where the authorities dare venture; Mian Mithu, with a self-confident air that comes only from being a public representative in the Indian sub-continent and then there’s Don, who is moved away from the days of his glory of forming the party. Of course the New York bits pales in comparison to the tour of Karachi as the reader cries for more. Most comforting are the ponds of familiarity, the warm plunge into the more convincing waters.
Moving through the narrative, one is reminded of Lord Acton’s adage: ‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ Perhaps it sums the leitmotif of a society torn asunder by corruption, crime and violence. Ironically, the only redemption possible is from liberal applications of the same: lies, deceit, fraud and betrayal. More so to bring about a resolution— the more things change, the more they remain the same.