Tuesday, January 03, 2023

Kismet by Amina Akhtar

First Line: The sound of the shovel hitting yet another rock made her shudder.
New Yorker Ronnie Khan has spent her life kowtowing to an abusive aunt. She's dreamed of escape but never thought it would happen until she meets socialite wellness guru Marley Dewhurst. With Marley's support and guidance, Ronnie suddenly finds herself moving to Sedona, Arizona, to help her new friend conquer the self-care business there.
Ronnie dives into her new life wholeheartedly, but after meeting many of the town's self-care gurus, she begins having a few doubts. Those doubts turn into real concerns when some of those very same gurus are murdered. All is not well in wellness town, and as Marley becomes dangerously focused on her career, Ronnie no longer feels safe.
The major reason why I picked up Kismet is its setting. I visited Sedona several times in the past and found it to be a magical place, especially as I explored offroad trails and Indian ruins. But even then, I could see that the influx of tourists and people coming to live there was a genuine threat to everything that makes the place so special. Kismet proved that I was right, and it was disheartening.
With its Greek chorus of ravens, the book skewers the whole wellness industry under the guise of up-and-comer Marley Dewhurst. Ronnie's best friend soon shows her true colors: she's much more focused on social media likes and followers and is so intent on her brand and becoming an influencer that she actually starts doing harm rather than the good she espouses. 
Ronnie Khan is a vivid, likable main character. Throughout the book, readers are given glimpses of Ronnie's life pre-Sedona, and the vicious cruelty of her aunt guarantees Ronnie a sympathetic audience even though some readers may begin to wonder how reliable she is. Watching this shrinking violet blossom in her new life is a joy. Her descriptions of hiking and other activities in the Sedona area made me smile. Ronnie is a city girl through and through, and her reactions to the landscape and wildlife reminded me of hikes I took with another city girl. (FYI: Not every hole in the desert floor is a snake hole; no, all rocks and trees do not look alike.) Ronnie is Pakistani, and as a person of color, she often makes comments about the predominantly white population of Sedona. Her comments are true and didn't bother me (and I'm so white I glow in the dark), but I can see her remarks bothering some readers who need to develop thicker skins.

I liked Amina Akhtar's gift of characterization and setting, and the mystery is a very good one; however, one thing bothered me. In all the blurbs and synopses of Kismet, I was repeatedly told how funny the book was. Granted, there were some amusing bits here and there, but I didn't find it anywhere close to being as "wickedly funny" as it is described. That's the trouble with humor. It's so subjective that, while some people may roll in the aisles with laughter, there are going to be others who remain in their seats and wonder what on earth is wrong with those people on the floor.

Regardless of my reaction to the humor (or lack thereof), I still found myself liking Kismet and Ronnie Khan, and I enjoyed trying to solve the mystery.

Kismet by Amina Akhtar
Thomas & Mercer © 2022
eBook, 333 pages
Standalone Thriller
Rating: B
Source: Purchased from Amazon.


  1. I've always heard great things about Sedona, Cathy (must admit I've never been there). And it sounds like the perfect setting for this particular story. That's an interesting choice, too, to use the wellness industry as the background. There's a lot of fodder there for a story!

  2. I was wondering about this book. I may try it, given your review. I think some folks should thiink about how hard it is for an immigrant from the Middle East or Africa or East Asia to cope in this country which has so much anti-immigrant intolerance and bias. What people of color here are confronted can be truly awful. I'm still learning every day from friends and TV news shows and movies, etc. And then there's what happened two years ago in the Capitol. Well, I need some new books. And a relative is sending Elly Griffiths' The Last Remains and Jane Harper's newest book.

    1. Many of us seem to have forgotten that we are ALL immigrants once you get down to the brass tacks.

    2. Well, not everyone. Indigenous people were here 15,000 years ago, and ancestors of people of African descent came here involuntarily starting in 1619. All of my relatives were immigrants, from different countries, but my mothers' relatives fled anti-Semitic pogroms in Eastern Europe. In those days and then pre- and during- WWII, many people fled without documents, just to save their families' lives.

  3. Humor is very subjective! Have you read this author before?

  4. That always happens to me when I read this sort of review.


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