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Novelist and playwright Louise Doughty recommends 'A case of exploding mangoes' by Mohammed Hanif

Louise Doughty'There's some wonderful literature coming out of Pakistan at the moment and one of my favourites is the hilarious, brilliant first novel from Mohammed Hanif. The novel opens with the assassination of the dictator General Zia, then goes back in time to explore the many conspiracy theories surrounding that event from the point of view of a young airforce cadet who was accidentally there at the time - Hanif was in the Pakistani air force himself before becoming a journalist and running the BBC World Service Urdu department. That all makes it sound deeply serious but what is so terrific about this book is that it covers serious and often very moving territory in a way that is always engaging and often comic and satirical - look out for the guest appearance of Osama Bin Laden at a Texan-themed barbecue towards the end. Hanif's writing shows that it is possible to make political points without being heavy-handed or grim, a terrific tour de force.'

About the book

Why did a Hercules C130, the world's sturdiest plane, carrying Pakistan's military dictator, General Zia ul Haq, go down on 17 August, 1988? Was it because of:

  1. Mechanical failure
  2. Human error
  3. The CIA's impatience
  4. A blind woman's curse
  5. Generals not happy with their pension plans
  6. The mango season?

Teasing, provocative and very funny, Mohammed Hanif's debut novel takes one of the subcontinent's enduring mysteries and out of it spins a tale as rich and colourful as a beggar's dream.

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About Louise Doughty

Louise Doughty is a novelist, playwright and critic. She is the author of six novels; Crazy Paving, Dance with Me, Honey-Dew, Fires in the Dark, Stone Cradle and the recently published Whatever You Love. She has written five plays for radio and worked widely as a critic and broadcaster in the UK, and was a judge for the 2008 Man Booker Prize for fiction.