The Language of Secrets by Ausma Zehanat Khan #GuestPost #BlogTour

TORONTO: A local terrorist cell is planning an attack on New Year’s Day. For months, Mohsin Dar has been undercover, feeding information back to Canada’s national security team. Now he’s dead.
Detective Esa Khattak, compromised by his friendship with the murdered agent, sends his partner
Rachel Getty into the unsuspecting cell. As Rachel delves deeper into the unfamiliar world of Islam and the group’s circle of trust, she discovers Mohsin’s murder may not be politically motivated after all. Now she’s the only one who can stop the most devastating attack the country has ever faced.

I'm thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for The Language of Secrets today, I read this book last year as part of No Exit's The Hunt For Read October celebrations and I loved it so much I included it on my list of favourite books of the year (together with Ausma's previous Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty Mystery, The Unquiet Dead). Many thanks to the publishers and Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and to Ausma Zehanat Khan for writing a fabulous guest post about the inspiration behind her characters.


Esa Khattak and Rachel are the two detectives who lead the Community Policing Section of my Toronto-based mystery series. They are tasked with investigating crimes in minority communities or crimes that may have sensitive ripple effects that bleed through these communities. In The Unquiet Dead, Esa and Rachel investigated the death of Christopher Drayton, a man who had fallen from the Scarborough Bluffs. Their investigation led them to consider whether the man in question was a fugitive Bosnian Serb war criminal. Esa became personally entangled in the case, fixed on questions on identity and belonging, while Rachel kept her distance…trying to figure out whether Esa could be trusted to lead an impartial investigation. 
By the end of The Unquiet Dead, the detectives uncovered a shocking truth that made them question their notions of justice. In the first book, their partnership was still new. Esa and Rachel discovered each other’s strengths. A bit suspicious of each other’s motives and crime-solving methods, they learned to work together as a cohesive unit. Now, in The Language of Secrets, their partnership approaches genuine friendship, and this development in their relationship has an impact on how effectively they’re able to act as partners.
Esa, a Canadian Muslim of South Asian ancestry, is more cerebral and reserved. As he investigates crimes in minority communities, he tends to be more guarded. But he’s slowly finding a way to let down his guard with Rachel just as Rachel is learning to see him as the man he really is – instead of the assumptions others may have about him.  
Rachel’s style is more direct, to the point where it sometimes verges on confrontational. She leads with her heart and because of her troubled family dynamics, she is well able to relate to the victims of the crimes she and Esa investigate.
I’m often asked whether Rachel and Esa are based on anyone I know. They’re definitely original characters, though they both have qualities I drew upon from people in my life. The quiet strength Esa derives from his faith reminds me very much of my father. And Esa’s physical characteristics – dark hair, green eyes, his manner of carrying himself – might be quite similar to one of my younger brothers – and to many of my cousins from the Peshawar area. (Coincidentally, that’s also where Esa’s parents are from.)

Ausma's younger brother 

Rachel on the other hand showed up on the page one day – bold and unafraid – demanding to be heard. She’s a doggedly loyal, go-after-what-you-want-in-life, fiercely competitive hockey-playing policewoman. As someone who grew up in Canada, hockey players abound in my family and community. Someone is always talking about ice time and my nephew’s gear is forever being loaded into one of the family’s cars. But Rachel’s matter-of-fact competence also reminds me of my sister, the one who herds children and pets and family members to all their scheduled activities and appointments. She’s also the one who can manage a crisis on the fly. Inside tip: unlike me, my sister can change a tire in a raging snowstorm, just as Rachel can.
As for the rest, characters become themselves as you write them, as you tell their stories and develop their relationships, and consider the impact that the crimes they investigate have on their personal emotions. Over the course of a series, characters falter and make mistakes, and from having made those mistakes, they grow or suffer permanent setbacks. So though Rachel and Esa were inspired in part by people I know, they soon became unique and distinct in themselves. And considering what I put my detectives through, that’s probably for the best!

Thank you so much Ausma, I think this brilliant post explains exactly why Esa and Rachel have become two of my favourite fictional characters - I love that they've been inspired by your family but have become distinct individuals too. Thank you too for the photo of your brother, I will be picturing him when I read Esa's scenes from now on!

I cannot recommend The Language of Secrets highly enough; when I reviewed it last year I described it as an 'outstanding thriller which combines a gripping mystery with truly thought-provoking and moving social commentary.' and wrote that 'The Language of Secrets is an uncompromising book, featuring an intelligent and clear headed examination of our historical legacy, and of the political, religious and social attitudes that affect us all.'

My full review can be found here.

The Language of Secrets is published in the UK by No Exit Press and can be purchased here. Don't forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
Ausma Zehanat Khan holds a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law with a specialisation in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. She has practised immigration law and taught human rights law at Northwestern University and York University. Formerly, she served as Editor in Chief of Muslim Girl magazine, the first magazine to cater to young Muslim women. Her debut novel, The Unquiet Dead, won the Barry Award, the Arthur Ellis Award and the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for Best First Novel. She is a longtime community activist and writer. Born in Britain, Ausma lived in Canada for many years before recently becoming an American citizen. She lives in Colorado with her husband. The Language of Secrets will be followed by Book 3 in the series, Among the Ruins, in early 2019.
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  1. Thanks so much for your continued Blog Tour support Karen x


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