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The Language of Secrets    by Ausma Zehanat Khan order for
Language of Secrets
by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Order:  USA  Can
Griffin, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Language of Secrets follows The Unquiet Dead as the second in Ausma Zehanat Khan's excellent mystery series, set in Toronto, Canada and starring unusual detective partners - Esa Khattak (a second generation Canadian Muslim who transferred from homicide to head the Community Policing Section) and his subordinate and partner Rachel Getty.

In this episode, trouble strikes very close to home for Esa, while at the same time an ex-colleague is very clearly out to get him. The novel opens on Mohsin's death, bleeding out in the Algonquin woods, where he had gone camping with jihadists - why? He obviously is ambivalent about them and his dying thoughts wander between poetry, his wife and his old friend, Esa Khattak.

It begins for Esa with a summons from an RCMP superintendent. She tells him of Mohsin's death, reveals that the man was working for them undercover, and asks him to act as liaison with INSET, the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, with whom he'd worked before taking on his current position. He has old friends there and also enemies, in particular Inspector Ciprian Coale, who now heads the terrorist investigation.

Esa is told that all he's needed for is to keep Mohsin's father quiet, before he starts using his media platform to push for justice for his son. He contacts the man (who proves obdurate) and sends Rachel undercover to infiltrate the mosque at the center of the conspiracy. But he's dismayed to be told by Coale that his strong willed younger sister is, unbeknownst to him, engaged to marry the ringleader.

The plot thickens quickly, as Esa investigates his friend's murder, against explicit orders to stay out of it from his superiors. And, though it's a very good mystery, I appreciated even more the author's often lyrical commentary on 'the missing context for the spreading scourge of enmity and hate, the broken and sprawling politics of the Middle East.' Comparing the ringleader and Esa, Rachel ponders that 'We bring to a tradition what is already within ourselves, however our moral compass is designed, whatever our ethical training is. And then the tradition speaks.'

As it does in this case, when Esa faces up against his sister's fiance. Enjoy The Language of Secrets and don't miss the thoughtful Author's Note at the end that addresses the Toronto 18 jihadists as well as multi-vocal Islam and what led to the rise of extremism.

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