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The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan

The Unquiet Dead is both Ausma Zehanat Khan's debut novel and the first book in a series starring Sgt. Rachel Getty and Inspector Esa Khattak of Canada's Community Policing Section.  In this installment Getty is much more the star; the reader is privy to her thoughts, family drama, etc. and the story is largely told from her third person perspective.  While this story is both an engrossing and disturbing read that becomes a page turner, the characters and overarching story itself isn't one that will pull me back for the next installments.

When a man named Christopher Drayton falls to his death from the bluffs by his house, Khattak is asked by a friend at the Department of Justice to ascertain whether or not the man's death was indeed an accident.  For Drayton is not who he says he is, and the first order of business in the investigation is to prove the man's true identity.  Drayton, a Serbian war criminal living in hiding in Canada under an assumed name, was a man many in the local Bosnian immigrant community wanted brought to justice for his crimes and role in the ethnic genocide of the Bosnian Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990's.  Thus, there may be many (many) suspects if the man's fall was not an accident.

The investigation turns up many secrets as well as other people also living under new names who would have motives to want Drayton dead.  However, evidence proving his death was anything but an accident is non-existent even as Khattak and Getty prove that the man living as Drayton was indeed Drazen Krstic, a depraved war criminal whose appetites remain perverted.  Complicating the investigation is the culmination of Getty's years long search for her missing brother as well as Khattak's ill-advised attraction to a museum curator/librarian who may be more involved in the mystery than initially believed.  There's also the reappearance in Khattak's life of a long estranged friend seeking reconciliation.

By novel's end Khattak mostly remains an enigma and frustratingly blind to the folly of his attraction to the museum curator and its effects on the investigation.  Khan weaves actual quotes from witness testimony at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to illuminate the horrors of the genocide perpetrated on the Bosnian Muslim people.  This story is very much haunted and rooted in the slaughter that took place an ocean away and two decades ago.

Programming note: As we wrap up this year, we'll be opening the new year with posts that list our Staff Picks from 2016.  You can look for those posts on Thursdays in January!

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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