The Unquiet Dead, Ausma Zehanat Khan
Hardcover, 352 pages
Expected publication: January 13th 2015 by Minotaur Books
Source: e-ARC from NetGalley
The Unquiet Dead is a debut mystery that twines together a questionable death in Canada to the atrocities committed in the Bosnian War of the ‘90s. The reader is introduced to Inspector Esa Khattak and Sergeant Rachel Getty who are in a special community policing division consisting basically of the two of them. Esa is called because the apparent accidental death of a businessman might actually be the suspicious death of a fugitive Serbian war criminal. Esa and Rachel need to try to confirm Christopher Drayton’s identity without disrupting the Bosnian community that has become established in Canada. They’re also trying to understand how a war criminal slipped through immigration to set himself up as a wealthy Italian importer. They begin to delve into his personal life and to try to understand the evidence left behind in his home. The mystery itself was excellent; this was an ending I did not see coming at all.
Someone else had figured out that Drayton was not who he claimed to be and was trying to remind him of the life he had left behind. Esa and Rachel move between Drayton’s social circle and the Muslim community trying to find the threads linking them. This is further complicated as Esa is himself Muslim and has his own history in Sarajevo. I was enthralled by this book as I tried to figure out the killer before the police– I definitely didn’t do it this time.
The story flashes from Drayton’s life in Canada to the past in Srebrenica and the Bosnian War. Khan masterfully uses quotes from survivors to make clear what went on during the massacre. I found myself in tears on the train at times as I read. I did not really understand what was happening in Bosnia when it was in the news so I did not have a lot of knowledge of the atrocities that occurred or the UN involvement. There is a list of further recommended reading included and I will be digging into that so I can educate myself further. The author did her PhD dissertation on the Srebrenica massacre so she clearly knows her subject.
This was an intense and powerful read. Not only are Esa and Rachel deep into this stressful investigation but they are also figuring out their relationship as partners and both dealing with emotional police cases from their past. I was on edge while reading because of the mystery, but also due to their personal lives. I definitely want more, so I am so glad to see another book is in the works. Rachel in particular seemed to develop into a more complex character as the book finished and I cannot wait to see what’s in store for her. Esa was cryptic too often and I would hope his story becomes more open in the next book.
Thank you NetGalley and Minotour Books for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review!