The Language of Secrets by Ausma Zehanat Khan
New York: Minotaur, c2016.
Inspector Esa Khattak works for a Community Policing Unit, acting as a liaison between the police and minority communities in Ontario. But there is a murder, of an old friend of Khattak's, Mohsin Dar, and suddenly the community he is investigating is his own.
He also receives a call from the (fictitious) Canadian intelligence agency INSET, who need him to understand that Mohsin was working for them, infiltrating a terrorist cell to feed them information. His death might have been political, or it might have been personal.
Khattak sends his partner, Rachel Getty (a solid, hockey playing, clever, reliable woman) undercover into the mosque led by suspect Hassan Ashkouri. There are a variety of characters at the mosque, both Muslim born and converts, and Rachel begins to see the tensions between them all. Things get even stickier when Khattak's sister Ruksh suddenly gets engaged to Ashkouri.
Another element of the story lies in Mohsin and Esa's love of Islamic poetry; many of the clues and hints are found within the lines of the poems that are included in the book. I found the inclusion of this literature fascinating, but it does mean the narrative slows a little unless you just skip over the poetry -- in which case you'll also miss a few clues. But even having read them all, I was still surprised by the conclusion.
This book faces up to issues of terrorism, of women's rights, of minority experiences of many kinds. There's also the question of family loyalty, or the loyalty one has to old friends or your wider community. The writing is smooth, and the characters are interesting and have complex back stories. Khan also seems to have a real grasp on the political infighting between law enforcement agencies and how it affects the application of justice. I thought this was an illuminating, solid mystery that tackles timely themes in an honest and thoughtful way.
You can read a brief excerpt & hear Ausma Zehanat Khan being interviewed on Q here.