A Deadly Divide

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Feb 2019

Member Reviews

I received this via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

I loved it guys. This book was just what I wanted It to be. The characters were very well flushed out. I loved the plot of this. I can not wait to read more by this author. I highly recommend this book.
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Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty have investigated many crimes that grew out of fear and hatred rooted in bigotry. The backgrounds to their stories are varied: the Balkan war, home-grown radicalization, dissidents in Iran, migrants in Greece hoping for a better life. In the fifth book of this absorbing series, the team doesn't have far to travel, just over the border of the neighboring province, Quebec, and into a maelstrom of racist violence. A mass shooting in a mosque has left an unknown number of worshipers injured and many killed. One of the weapons used was found in the hands of a priest who was at the scene, but an African immigrant has been arrested by the local police, who seem all too unwilling to admit that tides of anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim sentiment fanned by a popular radio host may have something to do with it.

As usual, Khan doesn't reach for simple explanations. The charming and down-to-earth Quebecois detective leading the investigation seems oblivious to the racism around him. After all, Quebec has had to fight to retain its distinctive culture, surrounded by Anglophone Canada. The university up on the hill has brought in wealthy international students from the Middle East and North Africa, changing the complexion of the community, threatening its identity. A secretive group, the Wolf Allegiance, promises to defend pure-laine Quebecoise women from immigrants, with violence if need be, the kind of men so often called "lone wolves" forming a pack. Muslim students who run a radio show to clap back against the popular talk show host are constantly under threat. Then there are the Goth girls with matching tattoos of a blood-tipped fleur-de-lis who seem to be defying all the cultural codes.

The intricate plot avoids simple answers, creating a web of complicated motivations and possibilities. Resisting easy and simple explanations for violence, Khan looks beneath the surface at the dark currents flowing through communities, across borders, through social media, and over the airwaves. "I wrote this book," she explains in an author's note, "because I have long studied the incipient and incremental nature of hate and the fatal places hate often takes us. I wrote it to illuminate the connections between rhetoric, polemics, and action . . . The things we choose to turn a blind eye to because we assess their impact as negligible on our lives – especially when we are not members of any vulnerable group – have the power to harm us all more deeply than we know." It's tempting to turn to mysteries, where justice is generally served and conflict is brought to a resolution, when the world seems overwhelming. Ausma Zehanat Khan uses the conventions of the genre to explore the world we live in, one that badly needs more justice.
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Love this series. Very likeable characters and great story development. Can't wait for the next one!
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Khan continues to weave today's headlines into compelling mysteries, this time taking on a mass shooting in a mosque.  While I didn't find the mystery as compelling as some of her others, the situation itself is riveting - how will this divided community respond?  I continue to love her characters and their very personal responses to the crimes they confront.  Because of the many references to past books in the series, I recommend reading them in order.  One minor complaint: throughout the book, Khan is setting up a second mystery that isn't solved in this volume.  Now I have to wait another year to see this plot line play out!
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Mystery writer Ausma Zehanat Khan has been navigating the difficult path of Muslims in the West through her Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty series.  Each volume deals with cases taking place in different types of Muslim communities and the issues they face. The only novel in this series that I've reviewed on this blog was the first one, The Unquiet Dead which dealt with Bosnian Muslims who were survivors of the 20th century horrors in that part of the world.  In A Dangerous Crossing, the fourth book in the series, Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty became embroiled in a case involving Syrian refugees on a Greek island.

The fifth novel, which is the subject of this review, is A Deadly Divide set in a small town in Quebec. I was provided with a digital copy free of charge from the publisher via Net Galley.
                          
St. Isidore in A Deadly Divide definitely isn't a clone of Three Pines, the small town in Quebec that is the setting of most of the mysteries by Louise Penny.  Fans of Louise Penny may object, but my feeling is that Three Pines is a rather typical small town that could be located anywhere in North America.  This is why I tend to prefer the Louise Penny novels that aren't set in Three Pines.

In Ausma Zehanat Khan's Quebec the French speaking Catholic community see themselves as an embattled minority trying to preserve their heritage in the majority Anglophone culture of Canada.   Many readers are unlikely to be sympathetic to their perspective when we are presented in a A Deadly Divide with a number of right wing Quebecois characters who are intolerant racists.  Yet there are also Quebecois who are respectful toward other minorities and mindful of cultural diversity.  The local Catholic priest, Père Étienne , is most notable in this regard.

In Khan's author's note, she discusses the actual mass shooting at a Quebec mosque in 2017 which inspired the mosque shooting in A Deadly Divide.  The perpetrator of  The Quebec City Mosque Shooting,  Alexandre Bissonnette, denied being a terrorist.  He said he was overcome by fear.   It seems to me that he was probably projecting his own intolerance on Canadian Muslims.   He must have believed that they were all religious fundamentalists who would impose their religion on all Quebecois.   


We all know that when religious fundamentalists achieve positions of power, they destroy religious freedom.   I only need to take a look at 17th century Puritan Massachusetts.  The Puritans were a persecuted religious minority who fled England for religious freedom, and then persecuted religious dissenters in Massachusetts.  Israel provides another example of what happens when religious fundamentalists become dominant.    For discussion of the religious situation in Israel see my post Are The Haredi Jewish Taliban?   So there is good reason to fear fundamentalism in any religion. Yet the assumption that all Muslims are intolerant fanatics is based on ignorance. The Islamic world isn't uniform in its beliefs.  For an excellent overview of the diversity within Islam, I recommend a book by a Christian who interviewed Muslims from a variety of approaches.  It's called Halal Monk, and I reviewed it here.

 One of the reasons why I loved A Deadly Divide is because it gave rise to thoughts like the ones above on the issues it raised, but it was also an excellent mystery.  I was never really certain about whodunit until the reveal at the end of the book.

I consider A Deadly Divide the best book that Ausma Zehanat Khan has written since The Unquiet Dead.  She continues to be one of my favorite mystery authors.
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This year I'm trying to add a bit of diversity to my reading. I thought this was important as I often use reading to explore issues, cultures, and time periods that I would have little contact with in my real life. A Deadly Divide, the fifth book in the Rachel Getty & Esa Khattak series, features two Canadian officers with Community Policing. Their mandate is to work with minority groups. 

I don't know much about Canadian politics. Being the U.S. the rhetic we often hear is how welcoming and nice and progressive they are (at least in comparison to the U.S.). So it was interesting to read about the tensions between white Canadians and the Muslim community. An added twist was having the story set in Quebec which has a long history of being at odds with the rest of Canada as they identify more as French while the rest of Canada is British or Anglo. 

Even though this is book 5, I didn't feel like I was lost with the characters or the plot. There are references to other cases and incidences, but they have little bearing on the current case. However, a plot thread is revealed in this book that will probably require the reading of the other books in order to unravel the mystery on your own.

The story was very well-written. It read smoothly and was engaging. I might not have felt a rush to get back to the story, but when I did pick it up I would quickly find myself immersed into their world and turning the pages rapidly. It helped that Rachel and Khattak are characters who are easy to like. 

I found myself often comparing the book and characters to my favorite British crime shows (Endeavor, Inspector Lewis, Unforgotten). I actually kept picturing the main characters from Unforgotten whenever I thought of Rachel and Khattak, though the ranks are reversed. In A Deadly Divide, Khattak is the senior officer.

As I said, I don't know much about the political climate of Canada, so it was interesting to see they are dealing with many of the same issues regarding immigration and national security that we are; that they have white supremacist and neo-Nazis just as we do. Perhaps, they just aren't as open about their opinions as those in the United States so they don't make the news here. I also found it interesting that the mass shooting in the book remained focused on the hate surrounding the immigrant community and not on gun control. I wonder if that is deliberate on the author's part or if gun control is more of a non-issue in Canada.

If you are looking for a well-written, enjoyable novel that explores sensitive issues of race, hate, corruption, and violence, then I highly recommend A Deadly Divide. I will be going back and reading the previous books in the series in anxious anticipation of the next book in the series.
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This is one of my favorite procedural series because I’ve really enjoyed watching the two lead detectives grow and it travels around the world looking at important social issues. This was my favorite so far because of the pacing and how everyone was basically a suspect, so it really keeps you guessing and doubting throughout the entire book. Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty are Canadian detectives who work for a department that handles minority-sensitive cases. They’re currently tasked with a mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec. Khattak struggles with this case hitting too close to home and Getty finds herself having to make tough decisions while also constantly looking over her shoulder while working with the local police who seem to have bigots amongst their team. Between the priest found at the scene with a gun, a young Muslim at the scene who the police arrest, a local hate group, and a stalker, there are plenty of suspects to give Khattak and Getty tons of work, and the reader a heart-racing read. Khan is an excellent writer who explores all the nuances in communities and social issues without creating caricatures or stereotypes. I’m already looking forward to the next in the series!
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I’ve read all the Rachel Getty/Esa Khattak books so was interested in this one, the fifth in the series.  

This time Rachel and Esa are called to Saint-Isidore-du-Lac in Quebec after a massacre at a mosque.  Twelve people are killed.  Christian Lemaire, the officer in charge, has a young Muslim man, Amadou Duchon, taken into custody though he was helping the wounded.  On the other hand, Etienne Roy, the local Catholic priest, is found at the scene with a gun in his hands but he is not apprehended and never seriously considered a suspect.  As the investigation continues, Esa and Rachel are convinced that the Wolf Allegiance, an ultra-nationalist group, and a right-wing radio host are connected to the mass shooting.

The mystery is interesting with several suspects with possible motives.  The identity of the murderer is not easy to guess, though looking back there are sufficient clues.  I understand the murderer’s initial motivation but there are subsequent actions that are less strongly motivated and so less convincing.  

The novel tackles relevant issues in Quebec and Canadian society.  It explores anti-immigration sentiments, Islamophobia, and white nationalism.  Rather than focusing on the radicalization of young Muslim men, it examines the radicalization of young white men.  The book mentions topics which have been in headlines in Quebec:  biker gangs, discrimination in the Sûreté du Québec, Hérouxville’s Code of Conduct, Quebec’s Charter of Values.  Some online chats and blogs which promote hate are included in the narrative; they are unquestionably realistic though disturbing to read.

In my review of the fourth novel in this series, I mentioned that the constant romantic tensions became tedious.  In this novel, the romance element is also over-emphasized.  Every woman who meets Esa seems to fall in love with him?!  He is unmoved by such amorous yearnings, but the love of one person has a dramatic impact on his mood and attitude.  Rachel, on the other hand, is attracted to someone with whom she has to work closely though she doesn’t know if he can be trusted.  These romantic concerns serve only as an unnecessary distraction, especially over-the-top passages like this:  “She struggled to regain her composure, blinking several times rapidly and running a dry tongue over her lips.”

Another aspect which is tedious and annoying is the many references to eyes:  “Their eyes met and held, eloquent with fear” and “the answering flame in her eyes” and “that still-banked fury in his eyes” and “her eyes were locked on his” and “The priest’s eyes slid to his” and “something dark and nameless in her eyes” and on and on.  Everyone communicates so expressively with their eyes?!  Dialogue and actions should be used more to convey thoughts and feelings.

As with the previous book in the series, this one is also sometimes bogged down by lengthy passages of exposition that would be more appropriate in an essay:  “But in effect, that’s what the Code of Conduct – and the succeeding legislation – stood for.  It was dressed up in language about religious neutrality and the values of Québec – it resisted encroachment; it spoke of erasure – but at heart it was a repudiation, of what was considered different . . . other . . . barbaric.  Debates about the Muslim veil had created the specter of a foreign invasion – an intolerable usurpation delivered by the hands of a community who sought religious freedom.  The language of Bill 62 . . . suggested it applied to all communities equally.  But its neutrality was a veneer.  Its practical application was to exclude those in religious dress from joining in public life.  In starker, more specific terms, the proposed legislation stripped a Muslim woman of her dignity and her choice.”
There is a lot of focus on the difficulties women face in a male-dominated workforce:  “Unwanted, unwelcome attention that hindered a woman’s performance of her job” and “What do you think it’s like for me?  For any woman who tried to slog her way to the top?” and “He’d heard it from many of his female colleagues, frustrated by unnecessary obstacles or by the difficulty they’d faced being treated with respect by the men who stood in their way.”  The reader does not need to be reminded over and over again about this problem.  

I had problems with a few things in the novel.  First, there’s the portrayal of the fictitious town, Sainte-Isidore-du-Lac.  It is a “small town on the fringes of Gatineau Park” about “an hour and a half from Ottawa.”  This small town has a mosque, a synagogue, and a university.  What small town, especially one so close to a city that has two, would have a university?  Then a character who works as a spokesperson for the premier of the province is summoned to Montreal?  The provincial capital is Quebec City so it is more likely she would have to go there.  A Muslim man speaks of the type of woman he would like to marry:  “A girl I can take to the mosque who will stand by my side in prayer.”  Perhaps I’m being too nit-picky but in a mosque, women pray separately from men!

This is not really a standalone novel.  I would strongly recommend that it be read in the proper sequence.  The relationships among the characters will be much better understood if the previous four books in the series have been read.  In addition, all the investigations of these prior installments are mentioned.  The next book in the series is foreshadowed at the beginning and the end with the appearance of a shadowy figure who follows and threatens Esa.  The identity of this person undoubtedly lies in the previous novels.  

This book examines the consequences of hate, and considering events in both Canada and the U.S., it is very relevant.  A Muslim police investigator as a protagonist is a welcome addition to the mystery/crime genre, and the character of Esa continues to provide insight into the tenets of Islam and the mind of a devout but moderate Muslim.  He and Rachel are an odd partnership but their working relationship is based on mutual understanding, respect, and affection.  Though the book is not flawless, it is of sufficient quality that I will continue to follow the series.

Note:  I received a digital galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.
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Eerily resembling the real-life massacre of 6 Muslims at a Quebec City mosque in 2017, this story focuses on a mass shooting at a mosque in a small town in Quebec, Canada. Community Policing detectives Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty are sent to liaise with the Surete police and local community. There is plenty of fear, tension and hatred against immigrants that is being exacerbated by the actions of a local neo-Nazi group as well as right-wing radio host Pascal Richard. 

Esa and Rachel are aided by Alizah Siddiqui, sister of a murder victim from Esa's past. Alizah is a graduate student at the local university and host of her own radio show to counter Richard's vitriol. 

Meanwhile, another sub-plot involves a stalker sending Esa cryptic messages and photos. Who is the stalker and why is Esa the target? Esa also has to make big decisions in his personal life with his long-distance lover Sehr.

As in other books in the series, the author writes a complex thriller that highlights real-life political and social issues. This time the focus is on how the deeply divided Quebecers are dealing with an influx of visible immigrants.

I received an eARC via Netgalley and St. Martin's Press with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book and provided this review.
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A Deadly Divide feels like the most timely book yet in Khan’s Khattak and Getty series. It faces squarely the identity politics that have been roiling through Europe and North America especially in recent years.

Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty are called to a small town in Quebec after a shooting at the local mosque leaves many dead and injured, a young Muslim man in custody, while a priest found at the scene holding a gun is released. They are present under their Community Policing mandate with approval from the capital, but with suspicion from the Québécois, including the local police. Fueled by local right wing radio, many local citizens are wary of losing their French Canadian culture, their language and way of life to what they see as an onslaught of immigrants. Even immigrants who have lived among them for more than a decade become suspect.

There are many forces at play here, including the emotional fatigue of having fought so many of these battles before. At times it seems to be eroding Khattak’s ability and desire to continue this work. And this is devastating to Rachel who understands her partner so well from their close work together.

Then there is the difficulty of identifying the enemy. There are some obvious possibilities among the new young pseudo-Nazis and shock jocks promoting themselves and hate. There are some odd hangers-on who are difficult to classify. And there are people it is difficult to trust.

As Khan has written in her Author’s Note:

I wrote this book because I have long studied the
incipient and incremental nature of hate and the fatal
places hate often takes us. I wrote it to illuminate the
connections between rhetoric, polemics, and action.
To suggest that the nature of our speech should be
as thoughtful, as peaceable, and as well informed as
our actions.

I have enjoyed this series from the first book. I appreciate the way Ausma Zehanat Khan meets today’s headlines head on and allows her characters to address all the different ways cultural and international change impact all of us, even those tasked with helping and protecting us. I am looking forward to seeing where she goes next.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.
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Another terrific and insightful outing for a truly unique pair of investigators.  Routinely seconded from the RCMP to local jurisdictions under the mantel of Community Policing, they are primarily concerned with crime within and against the Islamic community in Canada. In this lastest, there's been a horrible shooting at a mosque in Quebec.  The racial and religious prejudice in the region flares large as the community struggles with what happened.  A scary organization known as the Wolf Alliance has been harassing Muslims and committing small crimes against them.  Rachel and Esa come in to help untangle the situation even as they deal with their own lives.  Alizeh, the sister of a murder victim they met several books ago (don't worry if you haven't read it, this is fine as a standalone) is a student at the local university and at the center of some of the unrest.  She's also got a lingering affection for Esa.  Are members of the local police involved with the bad guys?  What about the role of the Catholic Church?  As always, this is complex and fascinating, especially with regard to attitudes in Quebec.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  This is a very good read that leaves you hanging at the end- and now I'm waiting for the next one.
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Thoughtful, smart, timely, and hard-hitting -- like all of the books in this series. It's nice to see more of Rachel and Esa's tight relationship and how they work together.
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I liked A Deadly Divide by Ausma Zehanat Khan so much that I checked my library to see if the author had written more books featuring Esa Khattak and his partner Sergeant Raclael Getty. The story take place in a small town in Quebec Canada. It is a complicated murder mystery that occured in their central church.  Several Muslims were gunned down and Khattak and Getty are . called in along with Christian Lemaire to find the killer. 
I felt this book was special because it emphasized the personal relationships between the major characters. They were all more than just decitives but individual people with complicated feelings and relationships. I hope the author writes another book featuring Esa Khattak and Rachael Getty..
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This is the first novel that I have read by Ms. Khan, although it is not her first novel.  I plan to read this entire series of mysteries featuring Esa and Rachel, along with the significant people in their lives.

This novel is a mystery but more than that.  It has an important story to tell that resonates in the current climate of being less than welcoming to immigrants.  The story takes place in a small Quebec community where the Muslim population is mistrusted by many.  An attack occurs at a mosque and deaths result.  Who is at fault?  What has led to such deep feelings of unease on everyone's part?  Is the situation hopeless?

In A Deadly Divide there are members of the Wolf Gang, a white supremacist group, the Lilies, a group of girls, whose role in all that goes on seems ambiguous, the local priest, a reporter, the police force and a government spokesperson, among others.  All are well described and become real and distinctive. 

Along with the mystery and the politics, this novel is very much about the relationships of the characters with one another.  This felt true to life as human feelings and emotions do not go away, even in the light of crises and  volatile political situations.

I recommend this novel.  It will make you think about the positions that you hold while also enjoying a well told story.  Fans of author Suzanne Chazin's series will want to read this.  Both series look at the role of immigration in our world view while also depicting complex mysteries.  

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this e-galley.  The opinions are my own.
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This is the second book that I have read by this author. I appreciate how the books deal with relevant , current events. The stories have well-developed characters and are filled with lots of detail.
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I have enjoyed Zehanat Khan’s previous books. They are part of a mystery series set in Canada, and they typically deal with recent events and contemporary issues. The last one involved a mystery amidst Canadian relief workers working with Syrian refugees in Greece. In this case, the mystery is centered on a shooting in a mosque in a small town in Quebec just outside of Ottawa. With this setting, the author again takes on some important and complicated issues. Her afterword is brilliant, reflecting on the recent shooting in a mosque in Quebec City and its relationship to the recent political climate. Despite the topic, I must say that I struggled with the story and delivery in this case. There was far too much focus on the overwrought emotional and romantic lives of the two main detectives, Rachel and Esa. I struggled a bit with this in her last book, but this time I found it hard to take the story seriously. Every step in their investigation seemed to be affected by their respective romantic entanglements. I also found the solution a bit disappointing. I won’t give up on this series quite yet. The very end points to the next mystery, and I confess that my curiosity is piqued. But I wish that the author focused more on what makes her novels so engaging and less on the romantic turpitudes of her detectives. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
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A Deadly Divide deals with difficult themes of anti-immigrant sentiment, nationalism, and Islamophobia as the detectives investigate a massacre at a Canadian mosque.  The story is engaging, and the characters have interesting and complicated relationships with one another.  I found myself wishing the author would not keep spelling out people's thoughts and motivations instead of allowing the actions and dialogue to convey these on their own, as the writing is strong enough to do effectively without help..  The personal relationships were well-described but overemphasized and slightly distracting (seriously, how many people are in love with the protagonist?) .  There are enough suspects and motives to keep the reader guessing, and the resolution is satisfying.  The characters have enough complexity to sustain an ongoing series, and it will be fascinating to see where they go from here.
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I liked this book. It had a good story to it. It is my first book by this author. I hope to read more books by this author.
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This excellent, thoughtful, well- written Canadian mystery is ripped from the headlines with its focus on an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim mass shooting at a mosque in Quebec, but it echoes the types of crimes we see all too often here in the US - most recently at a Pittsburgh synagogue.  Detective Esa Khattak and Sergeant Rachel Getty of the Community Policing Unit are sent to Quebec after a shooting in a mosque there kills 12 people.  Their job as Community Police officers is to act as a bridge between local law enforcement and minority communities when violent crimes take place.  When they arrive they find an old friend, Alizah, a member of the local Muslim community and learn from her that although this shooting is an escalation, there have been several criminal incidents in the past which have been aimed at the Muslim population - and there is a local group, the Wolf Allegiance, which is fomenting hatred against Muslims.  This is an important book, focusing on an issue that should be of importance to all of us, and showing us how far we have to go to make this world a better place for everyone.
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