Monday, October 31, 2022

Blackwater Falls by Ausma Zehanat Khan

 
First Line: No death could have been more profound.
 
When the body of a young Muslim girl is found at a local mosque in Blackwater Falls, Detective Inaya Rahman and other members of Denver's Community Response Unit (CRU) are called in to take charge of the investigation. There have been sustained charges of the harassment of minorities filed against the local sheriff, and no one wants to see this town turn into a powderkeg. 

Rahman and her partner, former trauma therapist Catalina Rivera Hernandez, have barely begun when they learn that other young girls from the immigrant community have gone missing, and their fates have been largely ignored. Finding a link between the death of young Razan Elkader and the missing girls, Rahman discovers that the leader of the CRU, Lieutenant Waqas Seif, is finding ways to obstruct the investigation. Wary of his motives, she relies on her partner Catalina and local civil rights attorney Areesha Adams for help in finding the truth before another young girl goes missing.

~

When you open Blackwater Falls, you immediately fall into a story of racial tensions, faith, prejudice, and fear, and author Ausma Zehanat Khan is a master of pulling readers into an unfamiliar world and making them feel a part of it. This is the sort of book many of us need to read in order to understand what immigrants and minorities have to endure every day, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if some readers find it an uncomfortable experience.

Detective Inaya Rahman is an interesting character. Daughter of Afghan-Pakistani parents and sibling to two younger sisters, Inaya has only recently stopped wearing the hijab. Formerly of the Chicago Police Department, she fled an untenable situation to become a member of Denver, Colorado's Community Response Unit (CRU). Described by another character as being "as biddable as a musk ox," her stubbornness and tenacity make her a good investigator, but she needs to learn when to dig in her heels and when to make a strategic retreat. 

As good and compelling a read as Blackwater Falls is, I felt that it suffers a bit from Too Much Syndrome (TMS). In this case, much of the TMS is due to setting up her characters and the background, but let me give you an incomplete rundown of the plot elements. You'll find various immigrant communities (Somalis, Afghans, Pakistanis, Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese) and their differences described, Inaya's Chicago backstory, her boss Waqas Seif's backstory, corrupt police officers, a spy in the CRU, Seif's real agenda, goings-on at a food processing plant, goings-on at an aerospace plant, the plight of refugees, hate crimes, a murder investigation, a missing persons case, an evangelical church complete with hate-filled sermons and its own biker gang enforcers, Inaya's mother trying to marry her off, Inaya being big sister, and romantic sparks between Inaya and Seif. As I said, this is an incomplete list. Whew! Sometimes, there was so much going on that my head spun.

But I value Khan's storytelling ability. She's proven to me that she's one of the best at creating complex investigations to solve in worlds that I'm unfamiliar with-- and becoming familiar with those worlds and their people is every bit as important to me as the crimes she asks me to solve.
 
Blackwater Falls by Ausma Zehanat Khan
eISBN: 9781250822390
Minotaur Books © 2022
eBook, 384 pages
 
Police Procedural, #1 Inaya Rahman mystery
Rating: B
Source: Net Galley

27 comments:

  1. I've read some of her other work, Cathy, but not this one. She does have great storytelling ability, and I can see how that and the premise would draw a person in. Just on that score I might try it. But, yes, there are only so many plot elements to put in before it gets too much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes-- I felt that some of those elements could've been saved for the next book in the series.

      Delete
  2. I haven't read anything of hers, but this one - from that nice cover onward - kind of intrigues me. In the past, I've read a few novels whose authors were able to immerse me in some kind of culture alien to me to the point that I almost believed I could see the world from that point of view. This sounds like one of those.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Zoƫ Ferraris is another that comes immediately to my mind. Like Khan, Ferraris has lived what she wrote about.

      Delete
  3. A B? Hmm. I think I'll try it as I've had her on my list for months.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It has many elements that you'd like, Kathy,

      Delete
    2. OK. I'm still on Murder on the Red River. It's sad.

      Delete
    3. Murder on the Red River really got to me with all emotions going. When I got to the last few pages, I just held onto the book and sighed. Then I read the afterword about the kidnapping of Native children who were not allowed to talk to their own siblings and I thought how much worse could it have been. I'm sure worse. Marcie Rendon can really evoke the emotions of her character. Now I have to read the next books.

      Delete
    4. I'm really looking forward to seeing how this series progresses.

      Delete
  4. There is a lot going on in this story! I don't always love the big info dumps authors sometimes do, but this mystery/book does sound interestingly complex.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is. And sometimes I'm in the mood for super complex plots... but I wasn't so much this time around.

      Delete
  5. Yet another writer whose acquaintance I need to make.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really like her other series set in Canada, Dorothy.

      Delete
  6. I've enjoyed her other books, do this one was already on my radar. I'm glad it has a positive review from you to back up my interest :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I saw part of the interview with this writer at the PP and will go back to hear the rest. Very interesting, and I will definitely read this; it's on my reserve list at the library.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The Rap Sheet writer says that this may be one of his top books read this year. I must get it asap.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Am almost finished with this book. I learned a lot more about so many issues, religions, evil sheriffs, aerodynamics companies, meatpacking factory horrors, dangers of union drives, anti-Muslim bigotry, biker gangsm etc, Figured out motives for murders. not sure of culprits. Only criticism is that creeping romance' it distracted from the plot. But I was riveted. Author is brilliant. I will read more of her books.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, she is an excellent writer, and I've learned a lot by reading her books.

      Delete
  10. Had a long talk with a reader friend about this book. We both criticized Seif's behavior and the author's decision about what to write about him and Iyana's reaction to him. We would rather she react to him as a woman to a male boss's rude behavior, She won't read other books in the series as she doesn't want ti see the relationship develop.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know me-- I'm quite happy to have no relationships at all in the mysteries I read, and I'm in no particular hurry to read about these particular characters again.

      Delete
  11. I'll read more and some books in the Canada books, but if things go off the rails with sleazy Seif, I won't keep going,








    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!