Diving for Pearls by Jamie O’Connell

On the face of it a playground for the rich where anything is possible, but hiding a dark underbelly of control and entrapment. A sinister and claustrophobic atmosphere quietly simmers throughout, keeping the reader enthralled.

About the book

A young woman’s body floats in the Dubai marina. Her death alters the fates of six people, each one striving for a better life in an unforgiving city.

A young Irish man comes to stay with his sister, keen to erase his troubled past in the heat of the Dubai sun. A Russian sex worker has outsmarted the system so far – but will her luck run out? A Pakistani taxi driver dreams of a future for his daughters. An Emirate man hides the truth about who he really is. An Ethiopian maid tries to carve out a path of her own. From every corner of the globe, Dubai has made promises to them all. Promises of gilded opportunities and bright new horizons, the chance to forget the past and protect long-held secrets.

But Dubai breaks its promises, with deadly consequences. In a city of mirages, how do you find your way out?

What I thought

I loved this book. I enjoyed every aspect of it. Irish authors, I don’t know what it is, but they really do tell such a good tale. A story about people and their struggles, their emotions, their every day lives, just so riveting I thought.

The book is set mainly in Dubai, although one of the less involved characters – Trevor and Siobhan’s mother, still lives at home in Ireland. All the way through there is an insidious atmosphere of oppression, from both the overbearing heat of the desert and the somewhat harsh culture of an Arab state.

All the characters are so well drawn. Quite an achievement to bring such convincing authenticity to each of the characters from around the world as the reader hears their stories through the chapters, they all seem so real.

Tahir, the Pakistani taxi driver, working to send home his earnings to keep his family back in Pakistan. He keeps his head down, he drives all day, every day, the same routes until he can finally knock off only to sleep in poor, shared accommodation with only the very basics.

Aasim, a rich young Emirati who on first meeting him at the beginning of the book seems all consumed with designer names and expensive possessions. He’s studying in Ireland where he lives with his partner but has been called back to Dubai by his family which is somewhere he would really rather not be.

There’s the Irish family. Siobhan has moved to Dubai with her husband Martin and their two young boys. They moved there for a better life and Siobhan loves it. She invites her brother Trevor over for a break whilst trying to convince him of the good opportunities there are for him to make something of his life. Living with them is Gete their Ethiopian maid. Again, like Tahir she’s gone to Dubai to earn money to send back to her family in Ethiopia.

They all came here with hopes for a better life, but once here, they find it’s not so easy to leave and are fast coming to realise, as the saying goes, all that glitters is not gold.

It’s difficult to pigeon-hole this book into any kind of specific genre but perhaps you might class it as a thriller, yet I thought there was far more to it than that with a fair few morals to the tale. It certainly keeps you on the edge at times, especially towards the end.

An absolutely brilliant book, the setting of Dubai making this story into something quite unique. I would love to read more by this author.

♥ Happy Reading ♥

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thank you to Transworld publishers for an advance copy of the book via Netgalley

The book is published today 3 June in all formats and available from Amazon, Waterstones and other booksellers.

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