Author: Ausma Zehanat Khan

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Iranian Politics, Religion and History in Among the Ruins

March 7, 2017 Book Review, reviews 1

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Iranian Politics, Religion and History in Among the RuinsAmong the Ruins (Rachel Getty & Esa Khattak, #3) by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Published by Minotaur Books on February 14th 2017
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 368
Source: complimentary review copy
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Reading Diverse Books

I’m embarrassed to admit that while my children were young, my life was consumed with taking care of them and not with paying attention to the world. It is only since they’ve grown up that I’ve become interested in the world around me.  As I’ve immersed myself in the news and lately, politics, I find myself drawn to reading diverse books.

History has always been fascinating to me. I find history a little easier to stomach as opposed to current events … with hindsight and all! In Among the Ruins, the opportunity to learn both historical context and current events taking place in Iran simply helped to add to my love of this series.

About the Book

Esa Khattak is on leave touring Iran after the deadly confrontation in The Language of Secrets involving his sister. While in Iran his first two weeks are spent visiting historical places; however, in his third week he is met with secret notes passed in fruit baskets and clandestine meetings with a woman who erroneously uses blackmail as a persuasion technique. Khattak is recruited/persuaded into finding a popular singer with dual citizenship from Canada and Iran. It is believed she’s been captured and held in the prison notorious for torturing political prisoners.

Among the Ruins is the darkest of the books in the Khattak series. The injustices performed on those who speak out are horrifying and the things unimaginable nightmares are made of. Ausma does not delve into gratuitous graphic description. Every word held meaning, and if Ausma’s intent was to make the reader feel the dichotomy between the hopelessness and hope of many Iranians, then she certainly succeeded.

Looking for a satisfying mystery with diversity as a theme? Check out this timely thriller Click To Tweet

Recommended For

I hope you will give this series a try, especially if you are looking to broaden your reading by incorporating diverse books. If you like a satisfying mystery steeped in social injustice then this series is definitely for you! Be sure to read the books in order!

Book 1 The Unquiet Dead

Book 2 The Language of Secrets

and I’ve read through Ausma’s social media posts that book 4 is almost completed! Yay!

Side Note

A couple of years ago my daughter visited Morocco. While I know it’s not Iran by any means, the ornate buildings and rich colors my daughter captured in pictures give me a sense of the landscape Ausma writes about in Among the Ruins. I cannot believe I’m saying this, but while reading Among the Ruins I so wanted to visit Iran and see the dusty streets, hear the cacophony of sounds and meet the Iranian people written about so beautifully.

Standard transportation method in Morocco

Standard transportation method in Morocco

 

Moroccan Riad aka traditional courtyard palace remodeled into a boutique hotel

Moroccan Riad aka traditional courtyard palace remodeled into a boutique hotel

 

Opulent traditional European bathroom in Morocco

Opulent traditional European bathroom in the riad

 

Tannery located in Morocco - bird poo is used to tan the leather

Tannery located in Morocco – bird poo is used to tan the leather

 

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The Language of Secrets

January 24, 2017 Book Review, reviews 6

The Language of SecretsThe Language of Secrets (Rachel Getty & Esa Khattak #2) by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 329
Source: complimentary review copy, purchased
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This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using the link, I will receive a small commission from the sale at no cost to you.

The Language of Secrets is the 2nd book in the Esa Khattak mystery series. Inspector Esa Khattak is the Community Policing Detective liaison for minority groups in Canada. Mohsin Dar, Khattak’s childhood friend, is found murdered. Esa is called in to give the ‘appearance of investigating.’ Mohsin works for the federal agency, INSET, by infiltrating a possible terrorist cell.

Between Esa’s integrity and his personal relationship with the victim, he is unable to stick to appearances. Esa is not without faults – prickly, with more secrets than the Vatican. But he is honorable. Great at his job. Open-minded with anyone different from himself. And he is Muslim. His sidekick, Detective Rachel Getty, is just as flawed, though she is paired with Khattak to temper his prickliness. Have you ever watched NCIS? I’d compare Detective Esa Khattak to a Muslim Jethro Gibbs and Detective Getty to the lovable, but smart, Special Agent Eleanor Bishop.

Between the politics of the multiple agencies involved, the family dynamics of Khattak’s sister engaged to the prime suspect, and the emergence of Getty into her new life out from under her parents, The Language of Secrets is fraught with human relationships and issues. I was somewhat disappointed that the prime suspect’s motives were not more fleshed out. He’s charismatic but what made him so? How did he get to be such an influence on the group of young people following him to the point of planning mass murder? I understood the primary motivation – losing his entire family – but how did he go from point A to point B so completely? Where Esa and Rachel are fully fleshed characters, the suspect fully fleshed would have made the novel that much stronger. I still enjoyed it and learned about the culture of the Muslim community. The addition of Esa’s sisters into the plot allowed for a better understanding of the Muslim female psyche.

Murder mystery, terrorism, and family relationships in #thelanguageofsecrets Click To Tweet

I read The Unquiet Dead, Ausma’s debut novel in 2015 and have been a champion of hers ever since. She gracefully interweaves cultural aspects of Muslim tradition and religion throughout her gripping mysteries. It’s a great way to peek behind the curtain and into the life of a Muslim, albeit a fictional one. The nuances of solving a case, dealing with racist beliefs, while navigating tricky family relationships are where Ausma thrives with her novels. And why I will continue to read everything she writes! Recommended, but read The Unquiet Dead first. There are nuances from the first book that overlap into the second you’d miss if you skip reading the first.

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Book Review: The Unquiet Dead

February 9, 2015 Book Review, reviews 8

Book Review: The Unquiet DeadThe Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Published by Minotaur on January 13th, 2015
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 352
Source: purchased
AmazonBarnes & Noble
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I am a sucker for a mystery that incorporates religion or historical fact.  When a book includes all three I’m over the moon.  And if it has a bibliography then I’ve died and gone to heaven.  Such is the case with The Unquiet Dead.  {if you’re in my postal book club stop reading now}

When the Bosnian war broke out I was pregnant with my first child.  I can remember watching the news accounts, horrified at the victimization of so many, and appalled at how little the U.N. seemed to be able to help.  Little did I realize the news accounts were woefully under-informed.

Set in Canada, The Unquiet Dead follows Esa Khattak and his partner, Detective Rachel Getty as they navigate the delicate religious sects in an attempt to determine if a death is suspicious, or not.  Esa was appointed head of a unique task force that investigates crimes with religious leanings ~ he is especially qualified as a 2nd generation Canadian Muslim to wade the murky waters of religious acceptance.

Because of Esa’s familiarity with a witness to the possible crime, Rachel is called in to be both objective and protection.  She is given no information about the case and is expected to observe without bias.  She is given as much information as the reader, actually less, and it was so interesting to learn the facts of the case right along with her.

Ausma is a talented writer with impeccable timing.  Just as Rachel was about to get too frustrated with the lack of transparency from Esa, I, the reader, was also bordering frustration.  Then bam! The next kernel of evidence and information was revealed.  This bit of writing finesse kept the plot moving at almost break-neck speed.

What is but isn’t a complaint ~ I wanted to savor each small revelation and work at slowly figuring out what was what.  I couldn’t do that though, because I HAD TO read fast so I could unravel all of the layers of mysteries. One small issue was with Esa.  Without revealing any spoilers there’s a part where he acts out of character.  I get it though, taking into consideration the underlying storyline with Esa and the witness, but geez! I thought he was made of stronger stuff 😉

Please read this one.  The mystery, the underlying psychological subtleties, the religious intolerance {and acceptance} are all each and of themselves enough reason to read The Unquiet Dead.  Throw in the historical fact of The Bosnian War and that makes this book a knock out of the proverbial park.  Highly, highly recommended.

[Tweet “Mystery that tackles 3 world religions with sensitivity and a senseless war with deep respect.”]

As a side note, some of the actual historical statements from endless testimony regarding The Bosnian War is used throughout The Unquiet Dead.  It gives even more credibility to the sensitive, respectful manner in which the author portrays the horrors of war.

Putting money where my mouth is {well, really my fingertips that are typing away here} I am giving away two copies of The Unquiet Dead to my lovely readers.  Everyone is welcome and encouraged to enter as long as you are over the age of 13.

[promosimple id=”6a1c”]

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