The Unquiet dead: My Review
This moving and powerful debut written by Canadian/British author Ausma Zehanat Khan was at times a raw and terrifying read. A crime fiction novel interwoven with one of the most tragic events of the 20th Century.
There was much to absorb in the first few fact-heavy paragraphs and some unfamiliar sounding names to get used to. Blink and you miss something important in this intelligent novel.
The book is a police procedural set in Toronto Canada. I was completely drawn into the story and quickly invested in the characters of Sgt Rachel Getty and her boss Inspector Esa Khatteck who heads the CPS (Community Policing Section) Their unit deals with racial and politically sensitive crimes. The two detectives are both investigating the mysterious and apparently accidental death, of a local museum patron Christopher Drayton.
At first the death does seem to be accidental – a fall off a cliff.
Khatteck though had been informed by his superiors that Drayton was possibly a wanted Bosnian Serb war criminal, Dražen Krstić who played an active role in the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.
Did he fall or was he pushed is the age-old much used scenario of crime fiction authors, but don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a novel like any other because it isn’t. If this wasn’t an accident and we don’t find out until the very end, there are multiple suspects who could have been responsible, including members of a local community of refugees from Bosnia, some of whom were survivors of the rape camps and ethnic cleansing that took part during the Srebenica massacre. Is this revenge and retribution or something more of a domestic nature because also under suspicion are the fiancé of Drayton/Krstić and members of her family, with a few other red herrings thrown in.
Throughout the book are heart-breaking snippets and flashbacks taken from witness statements and testaments from those giving evidence to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
The International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia since 1991, more commonly referred to as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia or ICTY, is a body of the United Nations established to prosecute serious crimes committed during the Yugoslav Wars, and to try their perpetrators. The tribunal is an ad hoc court which is located in The Hague, Netherlands. Source: Wikipedia
The author, Ausma Zehanat Khan, is a British-born Canadian with a Ph.D. in international human rights law, specializing in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. The research is faultless and taken from first hand accounts and primary sources. All sources are listed at the end of the book
After reading this book I felt like drawing people’s attention to it and telling everyone they must read it. In my opinion the book should be part of the school curriculum. A lesson in how quickly and easily a society of people of all faiths who once lived together in peace side by side can be destroyed. We need to learn from history, this history and any history where racial hatred can lead to genocide on such a scale as this while the world stood by and watched it happen. I wonder if this is why the author chose the now popular crime-fiction genre to get the message across about this time in history that many people will be totally unaware of.
I was a sensible adult in the 1990’s, albeit with a busy family life and career but I do remember some of the awful news articles written by the journalists embedded with UN forces in Bosnia. I can remember the siege of Sarajevo and accounts of massacres and also the aftermath and the counting and identifying the bodies of those slaughtered.
Of course it was often presented by the mainstream media in a dumbed down sanitised manner so I wasn’t really aware of the sheer scale of the events or the full facts of the ethnic cleansing and massacres by the Bosnian Serbs. I feel as though I’ve learned so much more from reading this book, even though at times it was a difficult read and it will stay with me for a long time.
Thanks to the publisher No Exit and the author for my review copy.
To Purchase on Amazon UK
About The Author
AUSMA ZEHANAT KHAN holds a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law with a specialization in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. She has practiced immigration law and taught human rights law at Northwestern University and York University. She is the former Editor in Chief of Muslim Girl magazine, the first magazine targeted to young Muslim women. Khan currently lives in Colorado with her husband. The Unquiet Dead is her first novel.
Follow the rest of the blog tour