Today it is my great pleasure to be joining the blog tour for The Language of Secrets the latest Khattak and Getty novel from author Ausma Zehanat Khan. I was very fortunate to be sent a copy of the first in the series, The Unquiet Dead, by publishers No Exit Press last year and loved it so I was really keen to read this latest instalment. Before we hear my thoughts, here is what the book is all about.
About the Book
AN UNDERCOVER INFORMANT HAS BEEN MURDERED… BUT WHOSE SIDE WAS HE ON?
The sequel to The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan, featured on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour
‘Powerful’ – Bookpage * ‘Exceptionally fine’ – Library Journal * ‘Compelling’ – Leigh Russell
A terrorist cell is planning an attack on New Year’s Day. For months, Mohsin Dar has been undercover, feeding information back to the national security team. Now he’s dead.
Detective Esa Khattak, compromised by his friendship with the murdered agent, sends his partner Rachel Getty into the unsuspecting cell. As Rachel delves deeper into the unfamiliar world of Islam and the group’s circle of trust, she discovers Mohsin’s murder may not be politically motivated after all. Now she’s the only one who can stop the most devastating attack the country has ever faced.
The Unquiet Dead author Ausma Zehanat Khan once again dazzles with a brilliant mystery woven into a profound and intimate story of humanity.
There is a dark subject at the heart of The Language of Secrets, one inspired by true life events and one which will resonate with many people – that of terrorism and the discussion of what it means to be Muslim in today’s society. This is not an easy read, as far from cosy crime as you can imagine, but it is an important subject which should be discussed, and one which the author has covered extremely well.
Now it is fair to say that recently there has been more than a small amount of suspicion when it comes to members of the Muslim community. Unfairly so in most cases, but most recent acts of terrorism, and certainly those which inspired the novel, have been committed by followers of the Muslim faith. This has led to prejudice against all Muslims from many quarters, something which is reflected in the novel by the treatment of central protagonist Esa Khattak. Not only is he Muslim, which has always seem him marginalised by certain colleagues, but he has a close personal connection to the first victim in the book, a man who was murdered whilst working as an informant in the middle of a terrorist cell.
The way in which the author has drawn out the conflicts between Khattak’s personal life and his professional judgment is very cleverly portrayed. For Khattak, the problem extends beyond just his link to the victim, bringing the story much closer to home than is comfortable. It also puts him on the radar of a colleague who is more than a touch jealous of Khattak and who seems hell bent on exposing him as compromised. I have loved reading about the character of Khattak over the two books, He is highly dedicated to his job and a man of principle but he is also fiercely loyal, to both family and friends, his main friend and ally in this book being partner Rachel Getty.
Getty is a really great character too and a perfect match for Khattak. She is right at the heart of the action this time, tasked with engaging with the cell to try to help solve the murder investigation but finding herself drawn into life there in unexpected ways. The leader of the group is undoubtedly charismatic, but it is not him Rachel is drawn to – it is those who pray with him, people who she empathises with and grows to understand a little too well. Rachel is another determined character, devoted to her job and her boss and the chemistry and trust between them is perfect.
If you are looking for a fast paced thriller then this may not be the one for you as it is a book which demands attention and pushes you to think, not only about what is happening but also perhaps a little about your own prejudices and those of people around you. This was a book I took my time over reading as I wanted to give it my full concentration. It is quite detailed giving you a clear overview of the Muslim faith but also the characters within. They are a complex mixture from the devout muslim, the strong cop with a chip on his shoulder to the young girl who is simply trying to save a friend. Each profile is layered and believable, and in some cases you can feel both their pain and their weariness emanate from the page.
The imagery in this book is strong, using poetry and symbolism to get across the point of view of the leader of the terrorist cell, the enigmatic Ashkouri, as well as leading Khattak closer to the truth. In many ways, as much as the message it conveys may be distorted, it is something quite beautiful within the text itself. And you can certainly feel the moments of tension as they build – and there are many such moments littered throughout the book – from the opening chapter, right through to the dramatic showdown at the end. And all throughout you’re left wondering if they will really be able to foil the plot which has been so well constructed and hidden.
This is perhaps a harder book to read than its predecessor, if only because the subject is so current, so relevant to today’s society. It is still one I would highly recommend and if you like a more thought provoking police based thriller then this is definitely one for you.
The Language of Secrets is available now from the following retailers:
About the Author
Ausma Zehanat Khan holds a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law with a specialisation in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. She has practised immigration law and taught human rights law at Northwestern University and York University. Formerly, she served as Editor in Chief of Muslim Girl magazine, the first magazine to cater to young Muslim women. 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. She lives in Colorado with her husband. The Language of Secrets will be followed by Book 3 in the series, Among the Ruins, in early 2019.
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