Returning to her full-length novels, Ausma Zehanat Khan takes the reader into another of the crises facing the Muslim population today, with a Canadian flavouring in this police procedural. Two bodies turn up on a Greek island, one a French INTERPOL agent and the other a Syrian refugee. A Canadian NGO has been processing Syrians for relocation in North America and its founder has gone missing. After a rocky time for the Community Policing Section, Inspectors Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty are back on their feet. Khattak is approached by his close friend, Nathan Clare, that it was his sister, Audrey, who has been heading up Woman 2 Woman and is nowhere to be found. A series of emails between Nathan and his sister provides some assistance in trying to put the situation into context, though it is not enough. Khattak remains highly professional, knowing that he is still being eyed for any misstep. However, the Canadian Prime Minister is also trying to make a difference in his image as it relates to the refugee crisis and has given Khattak free rein to work. Khattak and Getty work angles in and around Toronto, where they learn more about the NGO, but it will not be enough. They travel to the Greek island, where there is much more to learn about the influx of refugees from Syria and surrounding countries. Khattak learns of the European distaste for these ‘migrants’ and must come to understand how a world of haves can refuse help to those who are fleeing nothing. There is also the iron fist of the Syrian government, happy to slay anyone trying to escape the country. Khattak and Getty will have to work hard, not only to understand the Syrian crisis, but to locate Audrey Clare and determine who committed the murders that started this entire investigation. There are more secrets, layered inside bureaucracy and deceptions meant to keep the truth from seeing the light of day. A brilliant piece that packs a punch, allowing Khan to portray a powerful message that will not let the reader ignore the issue at hand. Recommended to those who have loved the series to date, as well as readers who enjoy something deeper that allows them to learn a little while being entertained with great storytelling.
Khan has yet to let up with her full-length novels, keen on addressing some of the major issues facing the more vulnerable portions of the Muslim world. With the current refugee crisis in Syria, the novel seeks to focus much of its attention on the plight of those fleeing horrible conditions while also trying to settle in a new homeland that is both helpful and accepting. Esa Khattak again becomes the voice of reason when it comes to the treatment of Muslims, offering his perspective and insights into the acceptance that Canada has for those in need. He must balance this with the knowledge that his own job is on the line, forcing him to make choices that are not only prudent, but can easily be explained up the chain of command. There is, again, some backstory that relates to his own family, which is embedded into the larger narrative and allows the reader to better understand him, if only for a time. Rachel Getty has her own role to play in the story, torn between trying to see things from a perspective not her own while wrestling with emotions as they relate to a man who is not even formally in her romantic sphere. Series readers will have seen hints throughout but it is all coming to a head, forcing Getty to decide which path to take. There are countless others who find themselves a part of this book. Each character brings something to the narrative and helps to shape the messaging that Khan wishes to portray. I have come to see that she uses her characters with a real intention and does not drop a subplot or individual into the narrative for no reason. It is the attentive reader who can extract the needed information and add it to the story being told. This enrichment makes the reader all the more aware of what is going on and helps to push along the intended message. While the Syrian situation has been going on for a while, it was only after reading this book that I had a better understanding of how things have been going. Refugees come from all parts of the world, but it is more than just opening the border as a compassionate nation. There are politics around refugees and migrants that surpass safety of those in need. These decisions are surely quite difficult and somewhat precarious, forcing politicians to think of a number of interests before making a decision. Khan definitely knows how to fuel the fire with this book (and her others), making it a wonderful choice for a reading group not hesitant to have clashing opinions.
Kudos, Madam Khan, for making me think. I need that when reading, even as I sit here on vacation.
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons