In Review

Novel of the week: The Fortune Men

Nadifa Mohamed’s fictionalised retelling of the ‘grim, desperate’ story of Mahmood Mattan

Nadifa Mohamed’s third novel is a “fictionalised retelling of the story of Mahmood Mattan, one of the last men to be executed in Wales” – for a crime he didn’t commit, said Ashish Ghadiali in The Observer.

A Somali seaman who lived in Butetown, Cardiff, Mattan was hanged, in 1952, for “slitting the throat” of a female pawnbroker. It later emerged that police had suppressed evidence that exonerated him, while bribing the main prosecution witness. Using her considerable powers of imagination, Mohamed delivers us deep into Mattan’s “inner world”. The result is a moving work that “confirms her as a literary star of her generation”.

Mattan’s story is a “grim, desperate and horribly familiar one”, and the novel could easily have been written in a style to match, said Catherine Taylor in the FT. “That it isn’t is something of a triumph.”

As it moves “faultlessly from the cacophony of Butetown” to the claustrophobia of Cardiff’s prison, Mohamed’s narrative teems with “life, character and humour”. The Fortune Men is a “novel on fire, a restitution of justice in prose”.

Viking 384pp £14.99; The Week Bookshop £11.99

The Fortune Men
The Week Bookshop

To order this title or any other book in print, visit theweekbookshop.co.uk, or speak to a bookseller on 020-3176 3835. Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9am-5.30pm and Sunday 10am-4pm.

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