Some books fall on you and leave a trace. The Unquiet Dead is one of them.
Title: The Unquiet Dead
Author: Ausma Zehanat Khan
Publisher: No Exit Press
Date of publication: July 27th 2017
Format: Digital Review Copy
Number of pages: 352
One man is dead.
But thousands were his victims.
Can a single murder avenge that of many?
Scarborough Bluffs, Toronto: the body of Christopher Drayton is found at the foot of the cliffs. Muslim Detective Esa Khattak, head of the Community Policing Unit, and his partner Rachel Getty are called in to investigate. As the secrets of Drayton s role in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide of Bosnian Muslims surface, the harrowing significance of his death makes it difficult to remain objective. In a community haunted by the atrocities of war, anyone could be a suspect. And when the victim is a man with so many deaths to his name, could it be that justice has at long last been served?
In this important debut novel, Ausma Zehanat Khan has written a compelling and provocative mystery exploring the complexities of identity, loss, and redemption.
I put off writing this review for hours. Two days. Why? Because no matter what I say, I already know no words will be up to the challenge of conveying the feelings The Unquiet Dead triggered in me, and that I have no doubt will trigger in you.
I could sum up the story by saying a Muslim detective and his sidekick goes on a chase, turning back time, diving into important and heavy history events. I’m not good at blurbs, am I? This is way too simple, and The Unquiet Dead is anything but simple.
Esa Khattak is a mysterious man. Yes, I found the fact he was a Muslim to be a different and appealing angle and yes, it was one of the reasons I chose to read the story. But there is so much more to him that his. There is an understanding of a religion, there is a respect, a painful past, a personality that reveals itself as the plot unfolds. Esa is not shy, I’d rather say he is reserved. The kind of man you look up to. The kind of policeman you trust. The kind of partner you rely on.
Rachel Getty is the other police force face of the story. Young, direct, very observant, I truly enjoyed reading, learning, witnessing all of it through her eyes, heart, and mind, to make sense of a crime, of many crimes, of something that is bigger than one can expect, something bigger than you can process. I fell for her, for her personal history, for her need for approval, for everything she stood for.
Every character you will find inside those pages has a story to tell.
Her Da had always said of her that her problem wasn’t that she thought too much. Her problem was that she felt too much.
I mentioned heavy subjects. I am squeamish but working on it. I am oversensitive but working on it. I literally had to take breaks during my reading. Ten minutes. A walk with the dogs, a podcast. Anything to help me stomach the horrific and shameful history events the author so brilliantly and excruciatingly narrates. I had never wished history classes to be so different than right now. I had no previous knowledge of the Bosnian war. Ex-Yugoslavia is a name a barely remember. The 90s. I was born. I was born but I was too young. I wish I knew, I wish more people knew. I want readers to open their minds to this book, to the history of so many men, women, and children. This is a work of fiction that portrays a reality I did not know had happened. How can we let this happen? Knowing, remembering, we owe this to our own kind. I thank the author for guiding me through a conflict, a scary, unfair, and terrible part of our past.
While I am impressed by the research shining through the narration, I am completely blown away by the fact Ausma Zehanat Khan weaved such a strong plot around a particular point in time, linking it to our era, our issues, our fears, and the silent memories. Because this is not a historical story for me. This is a mystery, this is a crime story, hard and cold, with a body, with suspects, with a process of investigation, a intricate puzzle painfully intertwining past and present.
Esa and Rachel’s mutual understanding and team work is fabulously realistic and perfectly fits the amazing task at hand. I am often wary of man/woman centered teams but this one is special and I felt like rediscovering the worlds through different eyes whenever there was a change in point of view, which made things even more gripping and intriguing. No wonder it only took one day for me to read it. Despite the shocks I repeatedly got as I dived deeper into the book, which resulted in small breaks, I could only come back for more, as though the writing was calling me, whispering me to keep going. I knew this is what I wanted, and what I needed.
The Unquiet Dead is a difficult read, a compelling story, a vivid testimony, hopefully an open-minder. This story makes your mind race for answers, pulls at your heartstrings, and turns back time to make sense of the present. The Unquiet Dead is the strongest debut I’ve ever read and a brilliant story you better not miss!
This unbiased review is my humble thank you to No Exit Press for allowing me to take part in this blog tour and to Ausma Zahanat Khan for such an incredible story.
You can find more about the story on the other stop of the blog tour!
Ausma Zehanat Khan is the author of The Unquiet Dead, published by St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books, and winner of the Barry Award, the Arthur Ellis Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Novel. Her widely acclaimed second novel, The Language of Secrets, was published in 2016. Among the Ruins, her third mystery was published in February 2017. She is also at work on a fantasy series, to be published by Harper Voyager, beginning October 2017. The Bloodprint is Book One of the Khorasan Archives.
A frequent lecturer and commentator, Ms. Khan holds a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law with a research specialization in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. Ms. Khan completed her LL.B. and LL.M. at the University of Ottawa, and her B.A. in English Literature & Sociology at the University of Toronto.
Formerly, she served as Editor in Chief of Muslim Girl magazine. The first magazine to address a target audience of young Muslim women, Muslim Girl re-shaped the conversation about Muslim women in North America. The magazine was the subject of two documentaries, and hundreds of national and international profiles and interviews, including CNN International, Current TV, and Al Jazeera “Everywoman”.
Ms. Khan practiced immigration law in Toronto and has taught international human rights law at Northwestern University, as well as human rights and business law at York University. She is a long-time community activist and writer, and currently lives in Colorado with her husband. (bio from the author’s site)