The Unquiet Dead – Ausma Zehanat Khan (Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak #1)



To be published 13th January 2015

Despite their many differences, Detective Rachel Getty trusts her boss, Esa Khattak, implicitly. But she’s still uneasy at Khattak’s tight-lipped secrecy when he asks her to look into Christopher Drayton’s death. Drayton’s apparently accidental fall from a cliff doesn’t seem to warrant a police investigation, particularly not from Rachel and Khattak’s team, which handles minority-sensitive cases. But when she learns that Drayton may have been living under an assumed name, Rachel begins to understand why Khattak is tip-toeing around this case. It soon comes to light that Drayton may have been a war criminal with ties to the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.

If that’s true, any number of people might have had reason to help Drayton to his death, and a murder investigation could have far-reaching ripples throughout the community. But as Rachel and Khattak dig deeper into the life and death of Christopher Drayton, every question seems to lead only to more questions, with no easy answers. Had the specters of Srebrenica returned to haunt Drayton at the end, or had he been keeping secrets of an entirely different nature? Or, after all, did a man just fall to his death from the Bluffs?

In her spellbinding debut, Ausma Zehanat Khan has written a complex and provocative story of loss, redemption, and the cost of justice that will linger with readers long after turning the final page.

My thoughts 

This is a moving and intelligent debut from Canadian/British author Ausma Zehanat Khan.

It is a story of revenge and retribution, with flashbacks to Bosnia in the 1990s and the horrors of rape camps and ethnic cleansing. Set in Canada, we follow Inspector Esa Khattak who heads the CPS (Community Policing Section) and his partner, Rachel Getty. They deal with racial and politically sensitive crimes. Khattak and Rachel are asked to look into the unusual death of Christopher Drayton. On the surface, Drayton is an ageing business man with links to Italy and a new fiancée. Khattak and Getty soon realize that there are plenty of people with motives to kill Drayton, as his past comes to light. Drayton was a Bosnian war criminal.

What stood out for me was the way Ausma Zehanat Khat created a very likeable lead in Esa Zhattak. Zhattak is a devout Muslim, with a good heart. It was refreshing to see a Muslim as a lead character, and not a stereotype. Getty was interesting, as she negotiated the complexities within her dysfunctional family and sought to make sense of the history of the genocide in Bosnia. I hope that we will see more of Zhattak and Getty in the future.

As for the plot, I was impressed by the way the author used the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia as a backdrop. It had a very raw haunting feeling to it, as we got the testimony of survivors. This is the second crime novel that I’ve read using this dark period of European history. The first being the brilliant Val McDermid novel ‘The Skeleton Road’.

A clever, well written mystery. I loved every moment of it.


About Northern Crime

Reviewer with a mind of her own. This is a collection of book reviews, which started in 2014. Mostly crime and odd other genres thrown in. Some I loved. Some I loathed. You get the picture.
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4 Responses to The Unquiet Dead – Ausma Zehanat Khan (Rachel Getty and Esa Khattak #1)

  1. crimeworm says:

    New one on me, this one, and sounds great! I’ve been feeling kind of rubbish towards the end of the week, so haven’t written a review for ages (as if I’m not behind enough!) Just finished An Officer And A Spy, from the TBR pile, by Robert Harris – loved it so much! As if I don’t have enough to read already Christine; you’re adding to my list all the time!!

    • Christine says:

      I’m really into crime novels, that touch on recent history. And this one was on Netgalley and it called to me. Its a good one!

      Did you enjoy the Robert Harris one? Hope you get your review mojo back soon. You can have some of mine :))))

      • crimeworm says:

        I know, you’ve plenty! 😉 Reading novels is a great way to learn about history without it being too much like hard work! – the Robert Harris was great for learning more about the Dreyfus affair, a horrendous anti Semitic incident in France in 1895, and the aftermath – really fascinating, and put some meat on the bones of the story, which was all I really knew. It was over 600 pages, and I read it in 3 or 4 long sessions. One of these books that if they were presented as fiction, you would dismiss it as too incredible to be true!

  2. This sounds an interesting book. Sadly I didn’t enjoy The Skeleton Road but this sounds completely different. I’m not sure I have capability to ask for more books at the minute though! I’m doing my best to get through some.

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