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Among the Ruins    by Ausma Zehanat Khan order for
Among the Ruins
by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2018 (2017)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Among the Ruins follows The Unquiet Dead and The Language of Secrets as the third in Ausma Zehanat Khan's stellar series centered on a unique police partnership - Esa Khattak (a second generation Canadian Muslim who heads Community Policing) and his subordinate, partner and friend, Rachel Getty.

This episode is quite different from the first two, as it's mainly set in Iran, where Esa has gone (using his Pakistani passport) for a holiday, hoping to recover from the trauma of having had to kill another person in The Language of Secrets. He's on administrative leave. The tale is loosely based on 'the real-life murder of Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in July 2003.' That and key political events in Iran are addressed in the Author's Note at the back of the book.

The story opens in Esfahan, Iran. I very much enjoyed accompanying Esa there as I was in Shiraz and Esfahan in 1978 before the fall of the Shah. Sightseeing, Esa is struck by a damaged woman with 'dolorous eyes'. He begins to receive mysterious letters from someone in prison. And a Canadian government representative, Helen Swan, presses him to investigate the regime's torture and murder of Canadian filmmaker Zahra Sobhani, who produced a documentary of the country's 'stolen election' of 2009. Esa reluctantly agrees.

He's soon embroiled with young Iranian Green Birds rebels, and seeks Rachel's help in communicating with Zahra's family in Toronto. Rachel pulls in other series regulars including Esa's oldest friend Nate, seeking to discover what Zahra was looking into before she flew to Iran. They discover that there was much more than politics at stake in the filmmaker's killing. As all this develops, Esa is followed by government agents, Rachel plans to join him in Iran, and readers share the harrowing experiences of an inmate of the worst Iranian prison.

Though the plot develops slowly and steadily, it builds to a thrilling climax of action and peril on land and at sea, in which Rachel shines. Finally, Esa places the last horrifying piece of the puzzle, and understands why the damaged woman he saw at the beginning was so very sad. This series is always worth reading, for mystery fans and for anyone concerned about human rights.

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