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The Unquiet Dead    by Ausma Zehanat Khan order for
Unquiet Dead
by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2015 (2015)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Ausma Zehanat Khan's The Unquiet Dead is set in Toronto, Canada and stars unusual detective partners - Esa Khattak and his subordinate Rachel Getty. They investigate the suspicious death of a man who just might be a war criminal responsible for atrocities during the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.

It all begins when Esa, a second generation Canadian Muslim who transferred from homicide to head the Community Policing Section ('a fig leaf for the most problematic community relations issue of all - Islam'), is called by Department of Justice historian Tom Paley. Paley asks Esa to look into the death of Christopher Drayton who appears to have fallen from Toronto's Scarborough Bluffs.

Esa's estranged childhood friend, internationally acclaimed author Nathan Clare, lives in the Bluffs, a wealthy neighborhood. So Esa and Rachel begin there. He knew the deceased as a neighbor who appreciated books and art. Next they interview the dead man's vulgar, well endowed girlfriend Melanie, who was about to move into Drayton's home with her two daughters.

They find odd snippets of writings in both the dead man's wallet and his safe - what do they mean? Were they threats? And why was the man so interested in Ringsong, a new museum in the area 'named after the great Andalusian poetic tradition, a blending of cultures and faiths, the holy and the vernacular.' Esa is instantly attracted to the museum's curator - which worries Rachel.

It soon becomes evident that Drayton was really a Bosnian Serb war criminal, Drazen Krstic, responsible for atrocities in Srebrenica. As an idealistic student, Esa spent time in Sarajevo and witnessed much that still haunts him, though he doesn't share this with Rachel. Nor does she share dark secrets of her own.

The Unquiet Dead is a well written mystery that also lyrically portrays the suffering of Muslims raped and slaughtered in Srebrenica - and the afterlife of damaged survivors. Don't miss the Author's Note at the back, that addresses this genocide. Esa and Rachel make an unusual and intriguing investigative team, and I look forward to reading more of them.

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