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April 10, 2018

A Dangerous Crossing, by Ausma Zehanant Khan

Everything is a little too close to home in Ausma Zehanat Khan’s latest mystery, A Dangerous Crossing. Inspector Esa Khattak’s best friend Nathan Clare’s sister Audrey has gone missing from the migrant camp in Lesvos where she’d been working for a Canadian non-profit, fast-tracking Syrian refugees to Canada. An Interpol officer is dead and Audrey has disappeared—is she responsible for the murder? Where has she gone? Has she been taken, and by who? And how to account for the discrepancies between Audrey’s official business with the non-profit and what she’s actually been up to?

To stave off a diplomatic nightmare, Esa and Rachel fly to Greece and are overwhelmed by what they find there—the enormity of the need, the scarcity of resources, the boatloads of people that continue to arrive on the shores. And the people themselves, each with their own stories, people who balk at being considered part of a refugee “crisis.” Words matter, as Khan makes clear throughout the novel. What is the crisis? Are these migrants or refugees? All of these questions (and the story of the refugees in general) distracting from the matter at the heart of it all, the brutal war and tyranny in Syria, torture and war crimes, the devastation from which people are running for their lives. The details are hard to stomach, but necessary to witness, especially to understand their ramifications. Which manifest in so many ways—human trafficking, the rise of violent nationalism, the arrival of refugees, PTSD, corruption and abuse of power, and more.

This is a powerful and moving story that manages to weave these huge narrative strands together in a believable fashion. I had a harder time with the personal stories of Esa, Rachel and Nate—part of it is that Esa and Rachel are both characters who seem to be at a remove, and so these rare glimpses into their souls can sometimes only reveal a stranger. (Oh, Esa! How could you!!) I also got the feeling that this was a transitional novel in terms of the characters’ personal lives and some of the scenes in the middle felt like work to get to arrival, but I really like where they end up—Rachel’s revelations about her feelings towards Esa in particular was really beautiful.

Khan is a gorgeous writer, her prose is backed up by her background in international human rights law, and—though her previous novels suggest it this one definitely confirms it—she can craft a detective story up there with the best of them.

One thought on “A Dangerous Crossing, by Ausma Zehanant Khan”

  1. Sarah says:

    This is one series I can’t wait to dive into, the first book is in my pile! There are just SO MANY books this spring!!

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