Today it is my great pleasure to be joining the tour for the latest Khattak and Getty novel from Ausma Zehanat Khan, Among The Ruins. A big thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to join in and publishers No Exit for the advance review copy. Here is what the book is all about:
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.
Steeped in suspense, Among the Ruins is a powerful, provocative mystery exploring the interplay of politics and religion, and the intensely personal ripple effects of one woman’s murder.A
I have really enjoyed reading the Khattak and Getty series by Ausma Zehanat Khan. The books always have an important socio-political message and Among the Ruins was no exception. Set against the difficult political climate of Iran, the books is equal parts intrigue and guide book, teaching me things about Iran’s history I had never known before.
At the start of the book we join Khattak on a kind of pilgrimage in Iran. Still recovering from the events of his previous case, he has gone to experience the culture and architecture of a country which holds many secrets, not all of them comfortable. Whilst there he finds himself embroiled in a dangerous case, one over which he has no jurisdiction, but which he finds he is unable to ignore – the arrest and murder of a fellow Canadian citizen, Zahra Sobhani. Taking on the establishment in a country like Iran is dangerous enough for a visitor, but the people involved in this case have already proved they do not shy away from extreme violence adding even more jeopardy to to his travels.
Of all of the novels I’ve read, I think this one perhaps had the slowest pace, but it is something which is necessary for the novel. While all of the stories feature a layer of historical intrigue, covering the history and current political climate of a country such as Iran is extremely complex, especially as this is as much about cultural boundaries as it is political understanding. Iran is a country with a rather checkered history, one which has not always been interested in human rights and the way in which those rights are trampled in this novel are painted in rather and acute way. Whilst we are not present for any of the violence which takes place, it is described in clear enough detail that our minds will fill in the blanks, and the picture painted is not pleasant in any way.
I would say that the first half of the book is spent in setting the scene, introducing the main players in the novel, and the historical context of the government verses the dissidents. And with Khattak separated from all of the tools and contacts he would usually turn to in an investigation, it makes finding out the smaller details harder and more frustrating for all involved. Even communications back to Rachel Getty in Canada are fraught with risk as if any of the messages are intercepted, it could lead to Khattak’s incarceration or worse. We know he is being watched and the sense of tension that you feel in each interaction he has in Iran will set you right on edge.
I loved the way in which we explore Khattak’s personality and conscience in this story. There is a melancholy about this man which is truly engaging, but it is natural curiosity and his determination to find justice for those who have been wronged that really shine through in the book. You can see it in the way he is automatically drawn to the young woman, Nasreen, who has an overwhelming sadness about her that Khattak is in tune with. And then there is his passion for finding out what really happened to Zahra which drives him, no matter how great the danger. He really is a character I have grown to love.
And then we have the hockey playing tour-de-force that is Rachel Getty. I love her personality so much. One hundred percent committed to the job, you know she would do anything for her boss and the concern she constantly shows for Khattak is really touching. She has plenty going on in her personal life, but she doesn’t let this stop her from doing all she can to help solve the case, including travelling to Iran, despite Khattak’s protestations. What I really enjoyed in this book though was the chemistry between her and Nathan Clare. Although neither will admit it, there is definitely a strengthening in their friendship as they try to assist Khattak’s investigation from the other side of the world, and a tenderness in the concern that Nathan shows for Rachel, perhaps more so than for his friend.
This is a story that will make you think and challenge your emotions. There are passages written from the point of view of one of the political prisoners that will break your heart, they are as difficult to read, both morally and emotionally, but they are necessary in terms of driving the understanding of what is at risk for Khattak and the others in terms of his search. Once Rachel begins to uncover the truth behind Zahra’s murder, the second half of the book moves along at a fairly rapid pace, and the tension and action ratchet up several notches, leaving me with my heart in my mouth at times and wondering if Khattak and Rachel could make it out or Iran alive, only for the emotionally charged ending to break my heart once again. So poignant and yet sadly so believable. The sacrifices that some of the characters make are hard to accept and yet you can understand why they made them. A very compelling story.
If you would like a copy of Among The Ruins for yourself then you can find it at 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 address a target audience of young Muslim women, Muslim Girl re-shaped the conversation about Muslim women in North America. She is a long- time community activist and writer. A British-born Canadian, Ausma currently lives in Colorado with her husband. Among the Ruins is the third Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty mystery following The Unquiet Dead, and The Language of Secrets. It will be followed by No Place of Refuge in 2019.
Author Links: Twitter | Website
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