Muslim Mysteries

While as yet a small subgenre, mysteries featuring Muslim investigators are increasing in both quantity and quality. Here are three.

In Murder Under the Bridge by Kate Jessica Raphael, a foreigner is found murdered in the West Bank. The Israeli police find a convenient suspect and get him to confess. Rania, a Palestinian policewoman, and Chloe, an activist from America, are not convinced. The story centers mostly on Rania, not only because she has the authority to actually make things happen on the case, but because her occupation is so unusual. She struggles with doing well at her job (she's a bit tactless) and balancing societal expectations and responsibilities at home. The story is compelling and intricately plotted, and one can practically taste the dust from the fields of produce the Palestinians grow. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a series.

Another new mystery featuring a Muslim protagonist is The Language of Secrets by Ausma Zerharat Khan. The sequel to The Unquiet Dead, it finds Essa Khattak, head of Toronto's Community Policing Section, fighting turf battles while trying to foil a terrorist attack. Based loosely on an actual plot foiled in 2006, there's plenty of drama to go around, whether it's Essa's friend who gets murdered or his sister getting engaged to the leader of the cell Essa is investigating. This is a book for people who like to think, encompassing the social, religious, and political aspects of the case. Also, the characters are fully fleshed out. More in the series, please!

Chris Culver writes the Ash Rashid novels, set in Indianapolis. Rashid, a detective on the police force, has a drinking problem compounded by his Muslim faith, which prohibits the consumption of alcohol. He also has a law degree and is thinking of leaving the force. In The Abbey, Rashid's niece is found dead on a wealthy family's property, apparently of an overdose. Something doesn't smell right though, and Rashid is after drug dealers. In The Outsider, shakily-sober Rashid gets a request from a crime lord to look into a murder with no homicide report. The third and most recent book in the series, By Any Means, finds Rashid saddled with a new partner and a double murder. The crime lord is back, and so is FBI footage of Ash consorting with him.These are compelling, atmospheric, and twisty mysteries, best for fans of hardboiled fiction writers like Lawrence Block.

Know other good mysteries featuring Muslim characters? Please let us know in the comments section.


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