Member Reviews

Going to do this a little bit differently than some of my other Book Reports because I received a complimentary ARC of Blackwater Falls from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley. Biggest difference is that I’m going to start with a cut-and-paste of the flyleaf copy, so you’ll know, basically, what I’m reacting to. Easy enough to scroll on past if you want to.

From critically acclaimed author Ausma Zehanat Khan, Blackwater Falls is the first in a timely and powerful crime series, introducing Detective Inaya Rahman.

“A gripping and compulsive mystery, but much more than that: an exploration of faith, prejudice and fear of the unknown.” —Ann Cleeves, New York Times bestselling author of the Vera, Shetland and Two Rivers series

Girls from immigrant communities have been disappearing for months in the Colorado town of Blackwater Falls, but the local sheriff is slow to act and the fates of the missing girls largely ignored. At last, the calls for justice become too loud to ignore when the body of a star student and refugee--the Syrian teenager Razan Elkader--is positioned deliberately in a mosque.

Detective Inaya Rahman and Lieutenant Waqas Seif of the Denver Police are recruited to solve Razan’s murder, and quickly uncover a link to other missing and murdered girls. But as Inaya gets closer to the truth, Seif finds ways to obstruct the investigation. Inaya may be drawn to him, but she is wary of his motives: he may be covering up the crimes of their boss, whose connections in Blackwater run deep.

Inaya turns to her female colleagues, attorney Areesha Adams and Detective Catalina Hernandez, for help in finding the truth. The three have bonded through their experiences as members of vulnerable groups and now they must work together to expose the conspiracy behind the murders before another girl disappears.

Delving deep into racial tensions, and police corruption and violence, Blackwater Falls examines a series of crimes within the context of contemporary American politics with compassion and searing insight.

Good first in a series; but, like so many books these days, it feels like it was written with the ultimate goal of it being turned into a TV series. Meaning, there was a bit of everything-and-the-kitchen sink going on _way_ too early in the book, complete with lots of semi-complicated violent scenes.

That said, I really enjoyed getting to know the main characters, and the opportunity to learn about a variety of cultures that are not mine. I told my husband that reading about people who are of the Islamic faith who are not extremists (and/or totally self-sacrificing in battle against said extremists) was quite refreshing, and that it reminded me of pre-9/11 days, when a majority of people in the United States seemed to understand that not everyone who ascribes to a given religious practice is a complete nutter.

I thought Ms Kahn did a good job of further underscoring that point by depicting different types of practitioners of the Christian faith. As someone who lives in a different area of the country, one area dominated by evangelicals, I’m here to tell you that as far-fetched as some folks might think her descriptions are of those sorts, she was spot-on. Sigh.

Was a big fan of how she used the locale as basically another character.

Let’s see, what else. Oh, I know. Definitely want to read more in the series, and now want to go back and read the Rachel Getty & Essa Khattak series by Ms Kahn. I see I put the first in the series on my Want To Read list back in early 2016, not sure why I haven’t gotten around to it yet.


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The residents of Blackwater Falls have a lot to deal with. A brash, possibly corrupt sheriff, who has a motorcycle gang called the Disciples under his thumb, long standing prejudices and distrust between locals and immigrants, two missing girls, a clash of religions, and now a dead teenage girl, found mounted in a very unique position.
Community Response Detective Inaya Rahman must put the pieces of the young girl's murder together with the help of her tough, enigmatic boss, Lieutenant Seif, and her old friend Catalina. Who can she put her trust in to put the pieces together?

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Rahman and Seif are on the case to solve who murdered Razan and posed her on the church’s door. Their are many underlying issues between the citizens and the religions in the town. Or was it personal? This small town is full of racism and hatred. One faction against the other.

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The diversity in this book was great and the conversation around racism was firm, and yet also sensitive. Very well done. I also appreciated the complex balance of good cops and bad cops in this tale as it addressed police brutality and corruption.

I loved that this one was multi-POV. I got so much insight into the different characters by seeing them through the eyes of others as well as through their own thoughts and feelings. Side characters in short scenes were unexpectedly complex.

The trust and friendship between Inaya and Catalina was fantastic; I love seeing strong, capable women have each other’s back.

The tension between Inaya and Seif really drew me in. His backstory and agenda were teased out slowly, thoroughly hooking me. I look forward to their relationship developing in future books.

I’m excited to have found a new-to-me author of both mystery and fantasy. I plan to hit her backlist soon!

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the ARC.

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What an interesting premise. What great characters to watch develop and follow in subsequent books. (I knew this going in, as in the description it states "Detective Inaya Rahman, #1" - quite the detective I am, hm?

A suburb outside of Denver - home to a MegaChurch, a large manufacturing plant, a potentially crooked sheriff, a motorcycle gang, and a growing Muslim community. What could possibly go wrong?

The main character, Inaya Rahman, is our detective. SOmething tragic happened to her in a previous posting, and now she's a Community Officer - which many police forces now have (or should have). Members of the local community running cases where there are ethnic and cultural situations at play.

A young muslim high school student is savagely, symbolically murdered - and found in a church. Who did this and why takes a VERY long time to determine and comes to a racing end.

There are definitely some stereotypical roles playing here, but the reader will most likely learn quite a bit about different cultures. Much time is spent on that, which dulls some of the intrigue, but is important. This made some of it difficult to read, but we get through it.

I definitely see the audience for this book. Its timing is prescient, and important actually. There need to be more writers of diversity who reach a mass audience - and who doesn't love a good murder mystery?

I look forward to #2. Oh, and thanks to NetGalley for providing me this Advanced Reader's Copy!

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I found this one of Khan's to be distractingly heavy-handed - the Christians were all bad, the Muslims were all good, the white people were all bad, the brown people were all good, etc. While there are definitely communities that may very well reflect this sort of broad coloring, it wasn't very nuanced or subtle or interesting. The main character was only sometimes relatable and the reactions of most of the characters were often not believable or natural. Not her best work.

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Blackwater Falls is a (fictional) well-to-do suburb of Denver. The main power brokers include a major Lockheed Martin facility, Apex Dynamics (a primary subcontractor to Lockheed Martin), The Resurrection Church (a non-denominational evangelical church and its Pastor, Gentleman Jack John Wayne), a National Foods plant (processes mostly meats), The Blackwater Academy (an exclusive private school), and Sheriff Addison Grant. And can’t forget about the Disciples (a motorcycle gang with ties to the Sheriff).

The community may indeed be quite affluent, but it also has taken in a considerable number of refugees primarily from the Middle East and Somalia. From this fringe population provides industry (especially National Foods) with a dispensable supply of workers for less than prestigious jobs.

The Sheriff is a no-nonsense type who is none too fond of the growing refugee population in his district. Two Somali teenage girls have gone missing with little investigative effort by the sheriff. A local attorney, Areesha Adams, keeps pushing for some action by law enforcement with little luck.

Another teenage girl, the Syrian Razan Elkader, is found murdered and hung in effigy on the front door of the local mosque. The Denver PD puts the Community Response Unit in charge of the investigation shutting out the sheriff. This unit was set up to deal with potentially explosive crimes that might fuel the fires of the various minority factions in the Denver area. The Unit is made up of Waqas Seif (of Pakistani heritage), Inaya Rahman (Afghanistan native), Catalina Hernandez (Mexican), and Jaime Webb (newly minted detective and token American).

Seizing the investigation from Sheriff Grant, the Unit starts working the profiles of the various factions who might’ve wanted this young girl killed. For example, her father was trying to unionize the National Foods workers. The church is openly hostile to non-whites. The sheriff is a white supremacist of the first order. The Disciples get their marching orders from the sheriff. Razan was an activist for local minorities, worked a part-time job at a local ice cream shop, academically gifted (winning a prestigious internship at Apex in the process), and the victim of school bullying by the star QB who’s headed to Ohio State on a scholarship. And the pot is continually stirred by Areesha Adams. Not to mention that it sure seems like the Unit boss, Seif, has his own agenda that seems to stall how the investigation progresses.

That’s a lot of juggling for any author - local politics, religion, bigotry, discrimination, bullying, top secret research, betrayal, and more. This is my first book from Khan. Per her website, she “holds a Ph.D. in international human rights law with a research specialization in military intervention and war crimes in the Balkans. She completed her LL.B. and LL.M. at the University of Ottawa, and her B.A. in English literature & sociology at the University of Toronto.” Whew, that’s some pedigree. And she’s a multi-award winner author of 11 (fantasy, mystery, non-fiction) books. This is the first of what looks like a new series featuring Inaya Rahman. Don't know about you, but I'm in.

A few years ago, I sprinted through a 3-book series about a Saudi female detective by Zoe Ferrais. While I still think the Ferrais books were absolutely top shelf, I’m thinking that this Rahman series will be worth a deep dive. I was concerned that the subject matter might’ve ended up being a bit too ‘woke’ for my tastes. By the time the investigation narrowed, that concern quickly disappeared. Give Khan a try. You might like it.

Thanks to NetGalley for making an advance review copy available. The book is due to be published November 1, 2022.

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A really interesting and intriguing police thriller featuring Detective Inaya Rahman and Lieutenant Waqas Seif of the Denver Police Department. Well-developed characters who I would enjoy future stories featuring them. However, the author’s political views imposed on some of his characters seem to be at conflict with the nature of their jobs. I received an ARC from NetGalley, and the opinions expressed are my own.

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Meet Detective Inaya Rahman, She is a American, half Afghan and half Pakistani descent and part of a police program to ensure vulnerable people are treated fairly by the police. She is called into take over for a sheriff in Blackwater falls where multiple girls from the community have been disappearing. Most recently a Syrian teenager that fled Aleppo with her family, has been found murdered and deliberty displayed in a mosque. Rahman is dealing her own professional issues, as well as personal issues with her traditional parents. She needs to make this case work for her career as well as for the young women.

Inaya works with her colleagues Areesha and Catalina to ensure that the mystery is solved - it is a complex race against time introducing many different characters of varied races, background and beliefs. Super enjoyable, interesting and thrilling! If you like strong female characters, multifaceted, multicultural characters and mysteries focusing on current topical events, Blackwater Falls is for you!
#StMartinsPRess #AusmaZehanatKhan #BlackwaterFalls #Netgalley

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’m already looking forward to the next book in the series.

This was heartbreaking and frustrating, yet also moving. The main characters, and the burdens they face, are compelling. I like the relationships between them all as well, and look forward to how they develop.

I do wish that the sexual tension was a little bit more subtle and developed more slowly. But that’s a small preference.

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Wow! This was a compelling narrative about the Muslim immigrant experience, particularly from a female perspective. Detective Inaya Rahman is trying to reform the police from within, only to be distrusted by both her colleagues and her community. When her team is tasked with finding who killed a young Syrian refugee, they find a obstructive sheriff, an evangelical church with a motorcycle gang of disciples, and two missing Somali girls. Wonderful written and constructed, this isn't Tobe missed.

Thanks to St Martin's Press for access to a digital ARC from NetGalley.

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A brand-new series from the talented and versatile Ausma Zehanat Khan! This is her best mystery work yet, with memorable characters, a gripping mystery, and insight into current events and law without any heavy-handedness.

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Blackwater Falls is the first book in a new series featuring Detective Inaya Rahma, a Muslim woman of color who is part of a community response police force. Inaya and her colleagues are called in to handle delicate matters when race or religion or other issues might affect the outcome of a local investigation. When a young Muslim girl is found nailed up on a cross with the wounds of Christ in Inaya’s own mosque, Inaya and her fellow officers are called in to find a killer but the murder isn’t the only crime going on in the small town. Fighting racism and hate based upon religious differences, Inaya and the other police officers tackle a twisted whodunnit. The characters are likable and the concept of the community response police force is unique taking on important cultural issues. But I found that the story moved slower than molasses at times and just seemed bogged down. Overall, the book was an okay read that will find wide popularity with certain mystery readers. My voluntary, unbiased review is based upon a review copy from NetGalley.

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I have read previous works by Khan and enjoyed them so I was very pleased to read this one. It did not disappoint. I had a little trouble following and keeping track of all the characters at first, but by the middle of the book I was fully immersed. Khan gives us timely issues, romance, and mystery in a very thoughtful way. The setting, a small town in Colorado, is interesting as well. I hope this is going to be a series!

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Readers familiar with the author's previous series will not be surprised to find that this novel has a highly diverse cast with a particular focus on the Muslim and immigrant experience. Here, instead of taking place in Canada, the action is set in a community outside Denver that is home to a meat-packing plant, a high=tech contractor providing sophisticated surveillance equipment deployed at the US border with Mexico, a popular evangelical Christian mega-church, a crew of tough Christian bikers who are muscle for the church, and a sheriff who runs the town like his personal fiefdom.

A group of Denver-based detectives have been brought into the town to investigate a murder that has created strains between the refugee community and the dominant White culture. A bright young Muslim girl has been found dead, her body displayed in a gruesome replica of an image of the virgin Mary. Soon the detectives hear hints that this isn't the only Muslim girl who may have become a victim.

I appreciate the way the author highlights immigrant and minority perspectives in her work, and the ways she probes the stresses between a law enforcement culture that is supposed to serve and protect and the too-often brutal experience of the public they police. Here, she also contrasts evangelical Christian nationalism and the spiritual life of her Muslim heroine. (There's also a tense romance thread that, frankly, I could do without.)

Though I enjoyed the book and found the characters well-developed, in the end I found the plot to be contrived. It may be that our times are so weird, so much stranger than fiction, that it's hard to know what will strike readers as plausible.

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Khan has written a book for our times. Introducing a new female detective, Detective Rahman, who is Muslim. She is operating in a post-2020 world where the fight against police brutality meets extreme racism.

When a young muslim child is murdered and nailed to the door of the Mosque where Rahman worships the murder becomes central to her life.

In the small town of Blackwater Falls this disappearance of immigrants and now the murder of a Muslim child don't much interest the town Sheriff. He tries to block Rahman at every corner. Thus she reaches out to two women with whom she has worked before to solve these horrendous mysteries.

A mystery with an important social component, this book is a must read

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me the opportunity to read and review this novel. I am rating this book based the stars due to lack of time to leave a full review. #NetGalley

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Mystery and intrigue…written by a talented author, this story keeps the reader guessing until the end. The book was sent to me by Netgalley for review. The characters are likable and following their stories is intriguing. Enjoy

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