Having binged all novels (and a short story) in the series to date, I can assert that Ausma Zehanat Khan seeks not only to tell a story to the reader, but to impact them with her powerful narrative and poignant topics. While the issues likely occur all over the world, Khan debunks the ‘Canada is a peaceful place of love and harmony’ with these novels, using her knowledge of Islam and through the genre of police procedurals. After a shooting at a mosque in a small Quebec town, Community Policing sends Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty to be part of the team to investigate. While the local priest was discovered with one of the guns in his hands, it was a paramedic of African descent who was seen fleeing soon thereafter and speaking in Arabic that garners the most attention. All this, while the Premier of Quebec is trying to balance new legislation that neutralises outward religious symbolism and practice with keeping everyone safe. While Khattak and Getty seek to work as part of the team, there are blogs and a call-in radio show that are fanning the flames about assimilation and vilification of all things Islamic. The community is torn, though the fires of xenophobia burn hot and no one is yet ready to douse them. While Khattak and the rest if the investigators seek to work on leads, they face a local white supremacist group that hides their views behind wanting to keep Quebec ‘pur laine’ or as traditional as possible. Getty sees that these sentiments may have leaked into the police force, compromising the investigation at its highest level. Meanwhile, Khattak receives some news that shakes him to the core, placing his spot in the investigation and personal safety at risk. Might this small community be a microcosm of the larger sentiment about the Muslim community in Canada? Could Khattak’s future with Community Policing be coming to an end? And what of his decision to settle down with a woman he only recently admitting to loving? Khan does not stop in her chilling tale and forces the reader out of their comfort zone as they explore the propagation of hate in Canada and the sparks that lit the fire. Highly recommended for fans of the series, as well as the reader who is prepared to invest the time and emotional effort it takes to understand all the issues on offer.
Khan seems keen to work outside the box and deliver a set of powerful novels that tell more than a simple police case with a killer on the loose. She wants the reader to see the deeper level of Islamic beliefs and the generalised treatment received in Canada and on the world stage. This novel really punches Canada in the stomach, deflating the ‘love everyone’ mentality that the country seems to have. With xenophobia on full display in other parts of the continent, Khan places the microscope on Canada and shows all the pitfalls that have emerged, particularly with the recent legislation in Quebec, shielded behind ‘Quebec values’. Esa Khattak returns to be both the face of the law and Muslim-Canadians, which proves to be the most difficult of all in this novel. Torn between trying to find the mass shooter and yet not compromise his personal or religious views becomes the struggle he cannot overcome. While sifting through the ashes of what’s happened, he is constantly a target of ridicule and generalisations. This only hurts his ability to do his job and causes insurmountable grief at the worst times. His need to decide about the future of his place within Community Policing is key and Khan uses this subplot as a real punch to series fans who have come to adore him. Rachel Getty is still on a steep learning curve when it comes to the job, though she knows all too well what it is like to be targeted. Bigotry and sexism are rampant in law enforcement agencies, something that cannot be stopped with a memo or two. That being said, Rachel has also become highly protective of her boss, Khattak, and seeks to shield him from the onslaught, whenever possible. Getty can no longer rely on her wit and intuition, but must challenge those who are outrightly fanning the flames, even if it costs her a position at Community Policing. This struggle is real and could lead to some major changes within the organisation. Khan uses a great cross-section of characters, each of whom plays an integral role in the larger narrative. The complexity of this story demands something out of the usual collection, though Khan handles it masterfully. The reader is taken on a wonderful ride throughout and can see first hand just how problematic things can become. From hate group members to those within the police, there is an inherent bias or racism that cannot be erased or hidden. The series reader will know that the stories take on a life of their own, with a narrative full of twists as the plot thickens. There is much to be gleaned from the story, with facts and sentiments woven into the fabric of the piece, which allows the attentive reader a more impactful story. Khan will not sugarcoat and rarely lets the reader sit back and ‘enjoy’ the progress of the case. She has a message and it is one worth hearing, even if it tells of something we do not want to admit.
Kudos, Madam Khan, for putting this topic out there. It needs to be discussed and the current situation in Canada is turning your work of fiction into something of a reality with each passing day!
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons