The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan

A powerful and thought provoking story

The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan

I read The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan in May. It’s due to be published by No Exit Press on 27 July 2017 (first published December 30th 2014).


One man is dead.

But thousands are his victims.

Can a single murder avenge that of many?

When Christopher Drayton’s body is found at the foot of the Scarborough Bluffs, Detectives Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty are called to investigate his death. But as the secrets of his role in the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre surface, the harrowing significance of the case makes it difficult to remain objective. In a community haunted by the atrocities of war, anyone could be a suspect. And when the victim is a man with far more deaths to his name, could it be that justice has at long last been served?

In this striking debut, Ausma Zehanat Khan has written a compelling and provocative mystery exploring the complexities of identity, loss, and redemption.

The harrowing account of the atrocities of Srebrenica in 1995 and the search for justice forms the basis of this intriguing novel. Extracts from statements and reports from survivors of the massacre head each chapter, giving voice to the ‘unquiet dead‘. These are immensely powerful and drive the novel. Alongside that is the investigation by detectives Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty into the death of Christopher Drayton who fell from the heights of the Scarborough Bluffs. Was it suicide, or an accident? Or was he pushed -and if so, who pushed him and why?

This is Ausma Zehanat Khan‘s debut novel but at times events in the past lives of the characters are referred to without much explanation and I felt I must have missed an earlier novel. For me, the investigation into Drayton’s death is the weaker part of the book. I think Rachel is the most convincing character, with Esa more of a shadowy personality, seemingly easily influenced by the women he meets. The other characters and there are a lot, aren’t particularly well-drawn and some are really just caricatures.

But these criticisms aside I think it is a powerful and thought provoking story that brought home to me the devastating and heart breaking horrors of the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims.

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: No Exit Press (27 July 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843449447
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843449447
  • Source: Review copy via Lovereading
  • My rating: 3*

4 thoughts on “The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan

  1. I thought it was a powerful read, too, Margaret. As you say, it’s not perfect. But I really liked Rachel’s character, and I thought the depiction of the Canadian Muslim community was well done.


  2. I’m glad you found it a good read. It’s on my list – has been for ages actually, but I’ve been rather put off because it sounds a bit too harrowing. However, I’ve finally included it in my 20 Books of Summer so I’ll find out soon…


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