The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan


The Blurb

Detective Esa Khattak is in the midst of his evening prayers when he receives a phone call asking that he and his partner, Detective Rachel Getty, look into the death of a local man who has fallen off a cliff. At first Christopher Drayton’s death – which looks like an accident – doesn’t seem to warrant a police investigation, especially not from Khattak and Rachel’s team, which handles minority-sensitive cases. But it soon comes to light that Drayton might have been living under an assumed name, and he may not have been the upstanding Canadian citizen he appeared to be. In fact, he may have been a Bosnian war criminal with ties to the Srebrenica massacre of 1995. And if that’s true, any number of people could have had reason to help him to his death. As Rachel and Khattak dig deeper into the life and death of Christopher Drayton, every question seems to lead only to more questions, and there are no easy answers. Did the specters of Srebrenica return to haunt Drayton at last, or had he been keeping secrets of an entirely different nature? Or, after all, did a man just fall to his death in a tragic accident? In her spellbinding debut, Ausma Zehanat Khan has written a complex and provocative story of loss, redemption, and the cost of justice that will linger with readers long after turning the final page.

My Thoughts

The main thing that I loved about this book is that it opened my eyes to things that I didn’t even know existed. It is a crime drama with a difference – the main topic is that of the Bosnian conflict, using actual quotes (which  loved, but would have liked the context to be added with the quote rather than at the back of the book) and remembering what happened. I was aged between 7- 10 when this was happening and have never heard much about it – this book made it real to me, and after reading I did a bit of research about it. I had never realised about the ‘rape camps’ the mass slaughter or the complete horror of what had happened. This story is a powerful one.

I liked the story of Hadley and Cassidy. I liked Hadley particularly – her courage and yet vulnerability, and her relationship with Riv and her father. She above anyone else really came to life for me in this story.

I’ll be honest. Some parts of this book stuck out. Others I found difficult to read – some of the more political parts I didn’t really connect with, and the description of Esa’s experience never really ‘gelled’ for me. I didn’t really feel that much was added by having these parts in the story.

I also wasn’t keen on the amount of ‘threads’ to keep hold of. There were an awful lot of characters, and I cant help but feel that a few could have been edited out with the same story at the end. The story of Esa, Nate and the ex colleague / girlfriend for example didn’t really add anything to the main story / stories. I liked the way the stories were all connected at the end,  but I just felt there was too many messages to follow.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book because of what it taught me – I have a feeling that the story itself will fade, but what I learnt about the Bosnian conflict will remain with me, and I may even look into it further as I am really interested in it.


‘Any rape is monstrously unacceptable but what is happening at this very moment In these rape and death camps is even more horrific.’

‘I knew all of them who did it. They were my neighbours.’

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