From the author of The Unquiet Dead, featured on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour
‘Powerful’ – Bookpage ‘Exceptionally fine’ – Library Journal ‘Compelling’ – Leigh Russell
Esa Khattak wanted justice. Now he just needs to stay alive.
The murder of renowned political filmmaker, Zahra Sobhani, brings Esa Khattak’s cultural holiday in Iran to a sudden halt.
Dissidents are being silenced and Khattak’s mere presence in Iran is a risk. Yet when asked to unofficially investigate the activist’s death, he cannot resist. Soon, he finds himself embroiled in Iran’s tumultuous politics and under surveillance by the government.
When the trail leads back to Zahra’s family in Canada, Khattak calls upon his partner, Detective Rachel Getty, for help. As Khattak gets caught up in the fate of Iran’s political prisoners, Rachel sees through to the heart of the matter: Zahra’s murder may not have been quite what it seemed.
I was privileged to read Ausma Khan’s book The Unquiet Dead as part of a blog tour when the book was first published. I remember it having a profound effect on me and Among The Ruins has had a similar effect on me.
The level of knowledge and research about the subject of each book from Ausma Khan are just astounding.
Once more we meet two Toronto detectives Essa Khattak and Rachel Getty who are part of an investigation team and are working partners.
After a traumatic period in his working life, Essa Khattak is on a furlough, he’s travelled to Iran to research his cultural roots and to visit some of the sites and holy places in the country. While he is there he is made aware of the death of the respected Canadian-Iranian political filmmaker, Zahra Sobhani, who was apparently murdered in the notorious Evin prison.
A series of mysterious letters are left for Essa at the place where he is staying and several characters contact him discreetly about case leading to mysterious covert meetings with a group of under cover dissidents, relatives of a group of Iranian intellectuals whose relatives were murdered during a time of political upheaval in the country.
Drawn into the case and aware that he’s being followed by a government agent, Essa treads carefully and contacts Rachel back in Canada to investigate links to the case back to there.
The case has overwhelming implications and photos and film taken by filmmaker Zahra are tracked down and researched using covert communication methods to transmit information back and forth between Rachel and Essa.
This was a fascinating book and full of history about Iran and its people. At times it felt like an overload of information on each page. I kept notes and referred back to them often which helped. There is also a timeline of the history of Iran in the front of the book that I referred back to at regular intervals.
Apart from the sometimes biased articles and misinformation in our mainstream media, I have read books about Iran before and was aware of what a beautiful country it is with a fine cultural background. The beauty of the country and all its finer points are referred to often throughout the book.
Unfortunately, repressive regimes throughout the turbulent history of Iran have repressed and imprisoned many of those who dared to stand up to fight for rights or democracy.
Fresh in my mind is the plight of the journalist and mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who was jailed in 2016 under suspicion of spying and is still incarcerated in Iran. I felt the air of suspense and suspicion in this book and worried about Essa’s safety.
There is a narrative in italicised text appearing often throughout the book and it’s clearly written by someone who is experiencing the terrible torture and suffering of life in Evin prison.
With the combined effort of Rachel and Essa working together, eventually the mystery of Zahra Sobhani’s fate is solved and it’s a surprising outcome.
This book disturbed my thoughts and my sleep. It’s a profound work and was an absolute education for me.
An absolutely stunning read
About the Author
Her debut novel, The Unquiet Dead, won the Barry Award, the Arthur Ellis Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Novel. She is a longtime community activist and writer. Born in Britain, Ausma lived in Canada for many years before recently becoming an American citizen.