Ausma Zehanat Khan is a novelist, human rights lawyer, lecturer and commentator. She holds a PhD in international human rights law with a research specialization in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. After graduating from Trafalgar Castle, Ausma completed her B.. in English literature and sociology at the University of Toronto. She went on to complete her LL.B. and LL.M. at the University of Ottowa.
Previously, Ausma served as Editor in Chief of Muslim Girl magazine, the first magazine to reshape the conversation about Muslim women across North America. Her debut novel, The Unquiet Dead, won the Barry Award, the Arthur Ellis Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Novel. It is followed by The Language of Secrets, Among the Ruins and No Place of Refuge in the Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty mystery series. She is a longtime community activist and writer. Born in Britain, Ausma lived in Canada for many years before recently becoming an American citizen. She lives in Colorado with her husband.
About the book
In the aftermath of a mass shooting in a mosque, small town tensions run high. Clashes between the Muslim community and a local faction of radical white nationalists are escalating, but who would I have motive and opportunity to commit such a devastating act of violence?
Detectives Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty are assigned to this high-profile case and tasked to ensure the extremely volatile situation doesn’t worsen. but when leaked CCTV footage exposes a shocking piece of evidence, both sides of the divide are enraged.
As Khattak and Getty work though a mounting list of suspects, they realise there’s far more going on in this small town than anyone first thought.
I can’t say it often enough about this series and the author – Ausma Zehanat Khan should be on your radar. The writing is spectacular, the characters and storylines are culturally aware and authentic. The politics, religion, culture, ideologies and just in general the socio-political topics she weaves into the crimes and the lives of her characters, are astute and relevant.
This story is absolutely in keeping with the problems in the world at the moment. The rise or re-emergence of the far right, white supremacists marching the streets, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have become the norm instead of rare glimpses of hatred and ignorance.
Khattak and Getty land in the midst of a nest of simmering hatred, bigotry and racism. A local mosque becomes the scene of a mass shooting. The local police are quick to point the finger at a young man who fits the stereotypical prejudice they often fall back on when it comes to solving crimes.
Esa and Rachel are alarmed to find there has been a build-up to this incident, things that show a pattern of escalation – one the police chose to ignore. This implies systemic hatred and the fact they haven’t brought an active neo-Nazi group to heel puts all the events in a different light.
It’s a crime thriller with culture, race, religion and ideology at the centre. A brutally honest account of ignorance and hatred in our day and age, which the author pinpoints which frightening accuracy.
Khan doesn’t want her stories, perhaps this one in particular, to come across ‘as message books or as didactic’, which they don’t but they are an eye-opener. There are many words, sentences and paragraphs that are quote worthy. This book has a different feel to it. There seems to be an awareness of how important each word is, perhaps because the topic is so divisive and controversial. The fast-paced action is replaced with reflection and a head-on confrontation with the truth.
Don’t be surprised if some of the dialogue is difficult to read. It’s vile, ignorant and frankly unworthy of a world that is very much aware of how the persecution of a specific race or people can end in genocide. It’s important to speak up. Too many look the other way or laugh things off as minor irritations. They aren’t. Tell that to Holocaust survivors being confronted with swastikas and ‘Juden Raus’ again. Tell the Muslims being told to go home, spat at and all thrown in to the same category as terrorists, to just forget about it. We are all accountable when we choose to ignore hatred, because confronting it is too uncomfortable.
Once again Khan gives readers a compelling and driven read. A fantastic writer I wouldn’t hesitate to buy or recommend.