Today on the blog I have a wee spot on The Unquiet Dead tour. Published by No Exit Press and written by Ausma Zehanat Khan. For my turn, I have a sneak peek for you to indulge in. Enjoy,
One man is dead.
But thousands were his victims.
Can a single murder avenge that of many?
Scarborough Bluffs, Toronto: the body of Christopher Drayton is found at the foot of the cliffs. Muslim Detective Esa Khattak, head of the Community Policing Unit, and his partner Rachel Getty are called in to investigate. As the secrets of Drayton s role in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide of Bosnian Muslims surface, the harrowing significance of his death makes it difficult to remain objective. In a community haunted by the atrocities of war, anyone could be a suspect. And when a victim is a man with so many deaths to his name, could it be that justice has at long last been served?
In this important debut novel, Ausma Zehanat Khan has written a compelling and provocative mystery exploring the complexities of identity, loss, and redemption.
Under a big pear tree there was a heap of between ten and
twelve bodies. It was difficult to count them because they
were covered over with earth, but heads and hands were
sticking out of the little mound.
There’s never any joy
Khattak’s phone rang, a temporary reprieve from questions
he could no longer ignore. He didn’t believe the truth would set
him free. The truth in this case was a trap. One he had willingly
entered, on the word of an old friend. Because friendship was
more than a source of comfort, or a place of belonging. It was a
responsibility. One that Nate had failed. He wouldn’t fail Tom
That’s not the only reason, Esa, you know that. You’re not detached,
pretend as you must. This is about identity. Yours. And his.
The phone call corroborated his fears. He’d told Rachel not to
use up resources, not to widen the circle, but he’d sent a picture
of the gun to Gaffney. And now Gaff had told him what some
still resistant part of himself didn’t want to know.
‘Bring those with you. You said you were hungry,’ he said to
It wasn’t an evasion. He had never meant to keep her in the
dark this long.
‘I’ll answer your questions while we eat.’
And Rachel, ever loyal when she should have been screaming
at him, bagged the evidence without a word and followed him
to the car.
Evidence? What evidence? A man fell to his death.
If he kept repeating it to himself, it might prove true.
He chose a restaurant near the marina, familiar to him
through colleagues at 43 Division. And through Nate. He and
Nate had eaten here all the time. The food was good, the views
His salad arrived swiftly along with Rachel’s grilled chicken
She tossed the bag of letters beside his plate.
‘Talk,’ she said.
Glad of the excuse not to meet her eyes, he turned his attention
to the bag. A disjointed phrase slipped toward his salad.
Not one of our leaders remain. No one returned from Omarska.
Rachel was already putting pieces together.
‘Who called you from Justice, sir? Who asked you to find out
if Christopher Drayton really fell from the Bluffs?’
His salad tasted dry in his mouth. This was Rachel. This
was going to be a nightmare for every branch of government
involved, but Rachel he trusted. She had more than proven her
loyalty in Waverley, but it wasn’t loyalty alone that had shown
him her real worth. Rachel had a dogged commitment to the
truth that outstripped her pride and ambition alike.
‘Tom Paley,’ he said at last. ‘He’s a friend.’ There was no point
delaying the truth further. ‘He’s also the Chief War Crimes
Historian at Justice.’
Rachel’s mouth fell open, disclosing an impressive amount of
She was bound to know Paley’s name. Every now and again,
his Nazi-hunting endeavors surfaced in the press.
She swallowed with difficulty, setting down her sandwich so
she could count off her fingers. ‘The map Drayton marked. It
was of Yugoslavia. The code to the safe – it was Drina, like the
river on the eastern border.’
‘Like the Drina Corps,’ Khattak amended. ‘Like the gun. It’s a
Tokarev variant, the M70 model. Standard issue for the Yugoslav
National Army – or the JNA, as it was known.’
‘What are you saying, sir? That Drayton owned a Yugoslav
army weapon? Where would he have gotten it?’
‘Not Drayton.’ Khattak looked at her steadily. ‘Dražen Krstić.’
She stared back unblinking.
‘Lieutenant Colonel Dražen Krstić was the Chief of Security
of the Drina Corps of the VRS in 1995. He was General
Radislav Krstić’s direct subordinate. He was a superior officer
to the security organs of the Drina Corps brigades. He also
had a unique relationship with the Military Police and the 10th
Sabotage Detachment of the Main Staff.’
‘Hold up,’ Rachel said. ‘I’m lost. Main staff of what?’
‘The VRS.’ He folded his hands to cover the letters. ‘The
Bosnian Serb Army.’
There was a deadly little pause. It had never bothered Rachel
that Khattak was a decade older than she, but she could see
now that it had its disadvantages. He spoke of a war he had
witnessed, whereas she had been a child during the dissolution
Memories of news coverage began to filter through. The
secession of a republic known as Bosnia Herzegovina. A UN
force on the ground. Shrill politicians. Hand-wringing. Yes,
there had been plenty of hand-wringing.
‘Did you say 1995?’ she whispered. He nodded, his expression
not quite impassive.
‘And the Drina Corps’s area of responsibility?’
‘It was Srebrenica.’
Now the dread had meaning.
So too the letters.
‘Tom thinks Drayton may have been Dražen Krstić.’
The notorious war criminal at large. One of the chief
perpetrators of the executions at Srebrenica, where eight
thousand Muslim boys and men had been murdered near the
endpoint of a war that had seen Yugoslavia dissolve into flames.
Eight thousand dead in less than a week.
Their hands tied, their bodies smashed, bulldozed into mass
graves in an attempt to obscure the war’s greatest slaughter. An
act commonly described as Europe’s greatest atrocity since the
Second World War.
Overlooking the rape, terror, and destruction that had
characterized the three long years before the culmination of so
Khattak could never hear the word Serb without thinking of
its dark twin, Srebrenica.
And he could not think of Srebrenica without remembering
his younger self, a self whose ideals and vocation were nearly
lost to him now. The younger self who had participated in a
student network against genocide, brave or foolish enough to
accompany a humanitarian aid shipment to the once exquisite
city of Sarajevo.
On Tuesday there will be no bread in Sarajevo.
He heard the cellist’s melody again: mournful, insistent,
accusing. It had sounded as a requiem in the streets of Sarajevo.
You failed us.
And then you watched us die.
To order your copy ~
If you enjoyed the blog please leave a like and a comment. We would love it if you could share it on Twitter & Facebook. It really helps us to grow. Thanks so very much.
Connect with Chasing Time Writer Retreats for more information or to book yourself that much need writing getaway. More writing retreats are available~