Saturday, October 15, 2016

Ausma Zehanat Khan's Language of Secrets

The Language of Secrets by Ausma Zehanat Khan
New York: Minotaur, c2016.
329 p.

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.


10 comments:

  1. Melwyk, this sounds like an intriguing mystery with style and substance. Excellent review, as always. Enjoy your weekend.

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    1. Thanks - yes it does have both elements. I thought it was a bit light when I finished, but I haven't stopped thinking about it since - so guess it sticks!

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  2. I like the idea of the complex backstories; that's something that makes me really enjoy a good mystery novel, with the sense of other stories simmering beneath!

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    1. Each character has their own concerns and their own family troubles or past which affects them. Makes them more interesting to me as well.

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  3. I have never heard of this series, but it interests me so much that I've reserved it at the library - with no hold! I'll have it this week
    and I look forward to reading it.

    Thanks for the introduction!

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    1. Oh! Will look for your thoughts on it.

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  4. There seem to be a lot of layers to this one and it sounds like an intriguing mystery. Am definitely interested in this one!

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    1. It faces a really touchy topic and does it well. Quite nuanced and thoughtful in its way.

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  5. I'm really looking forward to reading this. I liked the previous book in this series, and I loooove that Khan seems to be continuing to take up issues of human rights and international affairs in her mysteries. I can read a cracking mystery AND learn about the world. :p

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    1. I haven't read the first one, so want to go back and catch up! I do find that mysteries take on the social conditions of their setting so well -- they have to, to have a crime make sense in that setting. So I find I always learn a lot from a mystery.

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Thanks for stopping by ~ I hope you will leave your comments and reflections to let me know what you think!