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.
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.