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Posts Tagged ‘Bosnian massacres’

THE UNQUIET DEAD by Ausma Zehanat Khan: Book Review

The Bosnian war ended more than two decades ago, but its tremors are still being felt.  In Toronto, police detective Esa Khattak and his partner Rachel Getty are about to relive the massacres that occurred when the former Yugoslavia split into three warring nations, and the Bosnian Serb forces began the killing of 100,000 citizens, the majority of them Yugoslavian Muslims.  It was the worst European genocide since World War II.

Christopher Drayton, a Canadian citizen and wealthy entrepreneur, is found at the bottom of a cliff near his home of Scarborough Bluffs.  Why, Esa wonders, has the Community Policing Section that he heads been called to investigate what would seem to be an unfortunate accident, given the dark night and the unstable grounds from which Christopher fell?

Esa asks Rachel to meet him at Winterglass, the home of famed author Nathan Clare, since Nate was a neighbor of the late Christopher Drayton.  It becomes obvious to Rachel, early in their visit, that Nate and Esa have known each other for years; indeed, Nate tells Rachel that the two of them went to college together.  So why, she wonders, is the air so filled with tension?

Following the visit to Nate’s home, the two detectives search Drayton’s house, and Rachel finds a file with a number of papers inside.  Each one has a sentence or two on it, not exactly threats, but certainly unpleasant thoughts.  This is a cat-and-mouse game.  As you took everything from me, you asked if I was afraid.  Can you right all the wrongs of the past?  What are they doing in Drayton’s house?  Were they written by him?  Were they sent to him?  Either way, there’s something about Drayton’s life that doesn’t seem to fit the picture that he presented to the world.

There appear to be two major parts to Drayton’s life.  First, he was engaged to Melanie Blessant, a divorced mother of two young daughters.  Second, he was about to give a very sizable donation to a local history museum, Ringsong, that specializes in the Andalusian traditions of art and poetry.  Could the murdered man’s substantial wealth have been a factor in his death?  His fiancée certainly seems to be more distraught at the thought of missing the huge wedding she had been planning than she is at Christopher’s death.  And was Drayton’s interest in the history of Andalusia simply self-aggrandizement, a genuine interest in Andalusia, or did he have a darker motive?  And how does this all connect to the Bosnian war of the 1990s?

The Unquiet Dead is an amazing book, both beautifully written and painful to read.  The author has a doctorate in international human rights law and bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law.  All this background comes into play in this deeply felt novel.  Ms. Kahn’s characters are realistic, both heroic and flawed, each with his or her own agenda that takes precedence over everything else in life.

Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty will be appearing in the second book of the series in February, and I am very much looking forward to reading it.

You can read more about Ausma Zehanat Khan at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.