A Deadly Divide by Ausma Zehanat Khan #BookReview #BlogTour

In the aftermath of a mass shooting in a mosque, small town tensions run high. Clashes between the Muslim community and a local faction of radical white nationalists are escalating, but who would have motive and opportunity to commit such a devastating act of violence?

Detectives Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty from Canada’s Community Policing Unit are assigned to this high-profile case and tasked to ensure the extremely volatile situation doesn’t worsen. But when leaked CCTV footage exposes a shocking piece of evidence, both sides of the divide are enraged.

As Khattak and Getty work through a mounting list of suspects, they realise there’s far more going on in this small town than anyone first thought…

A Deadly Divide is a piercingly observed, highly topical thriller by former human rights law professor and award-winning author Ausma Zehanat Khan.

I'm honoured to be hosting the blog tour for A Deadly Divide today. Huge thanks to Ausma Zehanat Khan, No Exit Press and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

A Deadly Divide continues the Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty series; each can be enjoyed as a standalone but really I would strongly recommend reading these superb books in order. While the previous two books, Among the Ruins and No Place of Refuge have taken the pair out of Canada, here they are back on home soil, with their Community Policing Unit presence requested in Quebec following a mass shooting in a small town mosque. They arrive to a viscerally upsetting scene as they join the officers attending the bloody aftermath and Khattak immediately recognises the almost impossible task which faces them as mediators between the devastated Muslim community and local law enforcement. Right from the start, it's painfully evident that this attack shakes him to his very core and although he is an experienced police officer, used to death and violence, there come a point where the attacks on those who share his identity and faith becomes almost too hard to bear. He always becomes deeply involved in his cases but perhaps never more so than here and the result is a book which is profoundly compelling.
The small town of Saint-Isidore-du-Lac proves to be a divided community where Quebec separatism and the fear of Islamic terrorism has been manipulated to the point where anti-religious legislation has been passed which is clearly aimed at Muslims. As Esa and Rachel join forces with the local homicide detective in charge of the case, Inspector Christian Lemaire, it quickly becomes apparent that there is a growing White Supremacy movement in the town and that all areas of public life may have been infiltrated by those who sympathise with their aims. As a local radio host broadcasts his hate-filled shows aimed at further fanning the flames of suspicion and hatred, the overwhelming sense of the place is of a menacing claustrophobia where another violent attack seem almost inevitable.
As the novel progresses, it's difficult to know who can be trusted, particularly when shocking evidence comes to light which causes the investigation to pursue a line of inquiry which threatens to inflame an already knife-edge situation. The sense of imminent trouble meant I read most of the book with my heart in my mouth, waiting for something ignite this tinderbox town. It's not surprising that Esa and Rachel disregard their own personal safety in their desire for justice but there's another terrifying development in A Deadly Divide which means Khattak is perhaps even more at risk than ever and I'm looking forward to discovering what this means for him in the future. The character development of this pair over the series has always been exemplary and that continues here as their personal lives continue to be impacted by their work. Their friendship and the intensely close understanding which exists between them provides welcome and necessary succour but as much as I love their relationship, I also enjoy their rather more complicated romantic dealings. For different reasons, they both have to confront their confused feelings for others and it adds a further level of tension to the proceedings.
A Deadly Divide is an exciting, shocking thriller which superbly captures the grim reality of communities of the brink of violence. There is fear on both sides, of course but it's always stoked by those who seize on any opportunity to encourage racism and bigotry. As Khattak and Getty attempt to untangle the convoluted ties between the town's residents, a picture emerges of a place corrupted by obsession and hatred. It's never obvious who is responsible for the atrocity which meant my doubts about several of the characters ensured I read much of the story with my pulse racing, expecting the worst. It isn't just the potential threat of another brutal attack which is so frightening; the presence of the white supremacy group, the Wolf Alliance is a reminder that although we sometimes throw around accusations of facism too easily, there is a very real rise in racist nationalism and neo-nazism across the West. The minorities who live knowing they are a target of these people are under a constant cloud of oppression and doubt, never certain how wide their influence reaches. Alongside the main story, there are chilling excerpts from chat room conversations and radio call-ins which may be fictional but are only too believable.
This is much more than a thriller, however, and by the time I reached the end, I couldn't escape the real truth behind A Deadly Divide; this is a novel which is a searingly honest account of what it means to be a Muslim in an increasingly hostile world. Beyond the very real fear of the most extreme acts of violence, perhaps the most painful aspect of this book is that it's impossible to read without gaining at least a little understanding of just how exhausting it is to be confronted by the daily microaggressions and attacks on civil liberties which are accepted and too often welcomed by a society content to believe the Islamophobic rhetoric coming from our media and politicians. Ausma Zehanat Khan has written a devastatingly powerful book about the ultimately fatal consequences of tolerating hate; A Deadly Divide is an important and immensely moving read. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

A Deadly Divide is published in the UK by No Exit Press, purchasing links can be found here.

Don't miss the rest of 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 reflect the lives of 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.
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