Khair does an excellent job of both recreating and ridiculing the Victorian era novel. In the case of the former he populates the book with recognizable character types from the period. Mathews is the well meaning and intentioned earnest hero type. Honourable, he actually steps forward and provides Ali with an alibi when he's arrested and ensures he's safe, firm in his conviction that anybody exposed to the benefits of good Christian/English society can be saved from their life of heathenism. While condescending and bigoted, at least he doesn't believe they are inherently evil or that being poor or foreign makes you some sort of criminal. One only has to contrast him with a couple of the other characters; even his cook thinks he's far too lax by keeping a dangerous coloured person in the house, to see why Ali feels a little guilty for having deceived him.
The author also takes writers from this, and other eras, to task in a roundabout way for their lack of imaginations. He has created a kind of narrator from what appears to be our era. It's this man who comes across a series of letters in his grandfather's library written in Farsi. (Muslims in India used to be able to read and write in Farsi, the language of Persia, as the Mughal empire in Northern India was originally Persian.) While it is a chore, because he doesn't know very much Farsi, what he discovers are a series of letters from Ali in which he either describes the events in the book or makes allusions to things he'd obviously described to his addressee in person. Khair's narrator is inspired by these letters and begins to imagine the events and filling in the blanks. He will occasionally pose the question as to how could he, somebody living in India, possibly describe London of the 19th century or the interior of a nobleman's house. His answer is to show how by using his imagination, a knowledge of what these things look like gained from reading and extrapolating from his personal experiences, it's not very hard to recreate a reasonably accurate picture of a time and place one's never experienced.
Aside from being a wonderful piece of satire and a witty send up of 19th century novels, The Thing About Thugs also gives readers insights into life in London in that era from a far different perspective than has been previously offered. Even more so then today immigrants were looked on with suspicion, and they were relegated to live in the poorer parts of the city. Here, at least, they would turn into just another one of those people beneath the notice of their betters and could enjoy some simple freedoms. However, it they dared to leave those environs for the streets of their betters, they were regarded with suspicion if not outright hostility. Of course, that could never happen in today's world — just ask young African Americans what happens if they wander into all white suburbs.