The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanet Khan
Detective Esa Khattak is the Muslim head of Toronto’s Community Policing Unit. When a colleague calls him to investigate the death of Christopher Drayton, Esa discovers that the recent immigrant’s fall from a cliff just might be the catalyst that opens a really ugly and very nasty can of worms.
Khattak’s junior partner, Rachel Getty, is trying hard to impress her renowned colleague. But Rachel is at a loss to understand why an apparent suicide has fallen into the hands of her partner and herself. It’s only when Drayton’s real identity is uncovered that some of the pieces begin to fall into place.
Christopher Drayton is really Drazen Krstic, a notorious and wanted war criminal from the Bosnian Serb Army. Krstic played a major role in the Srebenica genocide of 1995, and there are many who would dearly love to see him dead. Khattak is one of them.
As the tenacious cops dig deeper into the war criminal’s horrific past, the list of suspects begins to grow. The author, Khan, cleverly conceals any real motive for each person of question, and the reader is left to ponder who exactly, if indeed anyone, did push Krstic to his death.
Interspersed throughout are stories of those who experienced the horrors of the Bosnian slaughter. Each story is heart-rending, all the more so since they accurately reflect the true horror of that terrible time. They are actual witness statements. Each chapter begins with a quote from those who survived or who were tasked with investigating it. It’s very tough stuff and should pluck at the heartstrings of even the most hardened reader.
To be honest, the story is very slow for the first few chapters. It’s only when we discover Drayton’s connections to Bosnia that the story comes to life. Yet when it does, it has a terrific impact. Khattak and Getty are torn between wishing to discover if Drayton was murdered, and not really caring if he died as a result of revenge for his war crimes. Drstic, like all those guilty of crimes against humanity, was a really nasty individual.
Rebel Voice is of the humble opinion that the best parts of this book are those as told by the Muslim characters who were terrorized by the Bosnian Serb Army. The imagery and stories contained in those accounts do bring home the true horror of what the victims went through. It’s gruesomely engaging. We hear of how children – boys – were taken from their mothers to be murdered with the men, and children – girls – were taken from their mothers to be systematically raped. The suffering of those who managed to escape and survive was enormous. Sadly, so many others didn’t make it.
And throughout this novel, we come to understand that it was the UN who helped to facilitate the carnage through their deceptions, cowardice, incompetence and immorality. The relevance today is unmistakable. Again, the UN is failing the civilians of Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Myanmar, Sudan and Palestine as regimes, both local and imported, conduct ethnic cleansing, Apartheid, bombings and slaughter on a grand scale. The West continues to look on with apathy.
If The Unquiet Dead deserves to be read for one reason, it is because it serves to educate or remind the reader of the terrible tragedy of the Bosnian genocide. That horror is rarely heard about today, even though it was only a relatively short time ago. Perhaps the governments of the West don’t like to be reminded of their failures.
To give the story its dues, it has a decent plot, although the presentation is not as good as it should have been. Still, this shouldn’t put you off and overall the entire package will entertain you adequately.
Sult scale rating: 6 out of 10. Strong premise failed somewhat by poor plot structure. Worth a go though.
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