Detective Esa Khattak, a second-generation Pakistani Canadian, made an auspicious debut in Ausma Zehanat Khan’s highly accomplished novel The Unquiet Dead, and is proving to be one of the most intriguing characters in contemporary crime fiction. He is a devout Muslim constantly being obliged to deal with the violent distortions of his faith espoused by some of his coreligionists. In The Language of Secrets, Khattak encounters distrust and hostility from both his fellow detectives and Muslim co-workers. When he is tasked with looking into the death of an undercover officer who had infiltrated a murderous jihadist cell, he finds his loyalties are even more painfully divided. As well as being a superlative crime novel, this is a sophisticated examination of Western society’s attitudes to the collision of fundamentalist Islam and terrorism. The writer was inspired by a real-life event: a 2006 attempt to blow up the Canadian parliament.
The Language of Secrets by Ausma Zehanat Khan
No Exit Press, £7.99, 320 pages