In many ways, this is exactly what Killeen himself has achieved. The Father of Locks is fundamentally a detective story but this primary plot is often put on hold whilst a character tells another story to provide back-story or history or religious fable. In this respect, it shares much with the Middle-Eastern fairy tales of One Thousand and One Nights, which ultimately makes for a rich reading experience and adds great variety and depth to Killeen's novel.
The foremost plot involves Abu Nawas, the titular Father of Locks, and his new protege, Ismail, investigating a series of child abductions in the great city of Baghdad at the request of the Wazir. Abu Nawas and Ismail soon form a Sherlock and Watson relationship: bonding, bickering and saving each other's lives as they encounter numerous adversaries along the way.
Those not interested in historical fiction set in ancient Arabia may hesitate to approach such a novel. However, this is ancient Arabia as directed by Tarantino, containing all the sex, violence and bad language of an episode of The Sopranos. If you like George R R Martin's fantasy novels then you will love Killeen's historical fiction. The comparison is particularly fitting as The Father of Locks boasts an equally vast cast of characters as A Game of Thrones, all fully-realised, three-dimensional and a joy to read about.
The frequent poetic verse is also a welcome addition to the narrative. After all, Abu Nawas is one of the most revered poets of his time so the inclusion of poetry is to be expected. Killeen's delivery of verse is every bit as accomplished as his prose and this talent, along with his extensive research into this period of history, helps the Birmingham author stand out from his contemporaries.
Abu Nawas himself is a superbly layered character - poet, scoundrel, genius, drunk, fighter, bisexual, detective - and deserves his own franchise. Happily, Killeen has already written a follow-up starring Abu Nawas which I will soon be adding to my Kobo. You should too.
I heartily recommend this novel, available for Kindle and Kobo. It is an Arabian delight.