#Novella 5* #Review #ADeathInSarajevo by @AusmaZehanat @MinotaurBooks

So, to follow on from my #TheUnquietDead #Review by Ausma Zehanat Khan. I have also reviewed the #Novella which picks up right at the end of, The Unquiet Dead.
I am super excited to share this review and my love for this series.
From Anne Bonny Book Review #HappyAusmaZehanatKhanDay 🙂

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A Death In Sarajevo by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Synopsis:

Detectives Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty are asked to help unlock the secrets of a woman killed during the Bosnian war in this captivating story from acclaimed author Ausma Zehanat Khan.

An old friend from Esa’s past has reappeared in his life, reaching out to ask Esa for help solving a mystery about the woman he once loved. But before Esa can travel to Sarajevo to help his friend, he and his partner, Detective Rachel Getty, must make it through a government inquiry that will not only affect their futures on the police force, but also test the strength of their partnership. Ausma’s trademark complex characters, atmospheric writing, and intricate plotting will mesmerize fans and new readers alike.

My review:

Having previously read and LOVED The Unquiet Dead by the same author, I was becoming desperate for my next fix, in the series. I was delighted to see it is scheduled for an October 2017 release via publishers No Exit. I was even more delighted to discover a novella that fits between the two novels. It is possibly the fastest I have ever downloaded an Ebook ever!!!!!!

The novella opens, following on from the previous case in The Unquiet Dead. With the crimes of Christopher Drayton looming over the lives of both community police officers. Esa and Rachel are facing a week long enquiry and their personal lives are being dragged out for all to see. In particular, Esa’s personal faith and beliefs. With the court assessing if fair justice was delivered, as Esa is a practising Muslim himself. Rachel is rather angered and dismayed at this and to be completely honest I was with her 100%. Esa has proven he is a fair and just man, yet time and time again he is vilified for his faith.
Is Esa going to suffer a fall from grace?

The enquiry is wrapped up and Esa receives a call from an old friend. The friend reminds Esa of a town called Waverley and a girl named Amira. The pair arrange to meet in SaraJevo. In SaraJevo, Esa is reacquainted with his old friend Skender. He shows Esa a photo which shows Amira months after she is believed to have died, when serb forces brought down her apartment block. Not only does she appear alive and well, she is dressed in the uniform of the ‘Bluebird Brigade’ an all-female army unit. But where is Amira now? Did she survive? Can Esa solve the mystery?

The novella packs on hell of a punch. It is a moving story with a moral message. Ausma Zehanat Khan knows how to blend historical fiction, with personal stories of those involved, to create heart-breaking reading!
5*

“forgiveness is all we have. It’s what makes us whole”

AZK
Ausma Zehanat Khan
Authors Links:
Web: http://www.ausmazehanatkhan.com/
Twitter: @AusmaZehanat

#HappyAusmaZehanatKhanDay 🙂

#BlogTour 5* Genius #Review Q&A #TheUnquietDead @AusmaZehanat @noexitpress

Unquiet Dead Blog Tour Poster
The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Synopsis:

One man is dead.

But thousands were his victims.

Can a single murder avenge that of many?

Scarborough Bluffs, Toronto: the body of Christopher Drayton is found at the foot of the cliffs. Muslim Detective Esa Khattak, head of the Community Policing Unit, and his partner Rachel Getty are called in to investigate. As the secrets of Drayton’s role in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide of Bosnian Muslims surface, the harrowing significance of his death makes it difficult to remain objective. In a community haunted by the atrocities of war, anyone could be a suspect. And when the victim is a man with so many deaths to his name, could it be that justice has at long last been served?

In this important debut novel, Ausma Zehanat Khan has written a compelling and provocative mystery exploring the complexities of identity, loss, and redemption.

My Review:

This novel is outstanding! I cannot rate it highly enough. It is very moving and thought-provoking, with its brutally honest depiction, of the Bosnian War. This is without a doubt the most emotionally charged novel I have read this year so far!

The novel opens with Inspector Esa Khattak giving prayer. Esa is immediately identified as a Muslim police detective, working within the community policing section. I found his characterisation brilliant. He is elusive and intriguing. Esa is called to a crime scene by Tom Paley a most respected historian at the Canadian department of justice. Tom believed Esa is the only one with the experience, training and vision to lead this case but urges Esa to take partner Sargent Rachel Getty to appear neutral. This is no routine case.

Rachel Getty meets Esa at the scene and here we learn that Christopher Drayton has fallen to his death via an accident at the Scarborough Bluffs. So many questions swirled my head at this point. But the novel is very cleverly written in that it is a whole series of revelations that never let up. Christopher Drayton is well liked within his community and even referred to as generous and cultured. The scene is almost as much a mystery as the man himself. However, there are rumours and speculation within the department of justice that Drayton is not who he says he………..
Drayton is rumoured to be Drazen Krstic a fugitive war criminal fleeing a war crimes tribunal for genocide complicity, crimes against humanity, violence, murder and mass execution. Did this monster live amongst an unsuspecting community? Did Krstic seek redemption for his crimes? Was that part of his various roles in the community? Or did someone discover the truth?

There are a series of chapters from a reflective viewpoint inside the Bosnian war of 1995. They truly depict war, its victims, violence, depravity and I found it terrifying reading. As a mother myself it was hard not to picture my sons in that position, living through the horrors of a war that leads to a genocide. I am not ashamed to admit that reading this novel, moved me to tears. This is also why I am glad that novels such as this exist. To educate the readers of the atrocities of the past and how we continue to make the same mistakes of the past, via religious persecution. Either by the violence we inflict ourselves, or like the UN, stand idle as the atrocities occur.

I found this novel very literary in its content, phrases and quotations that are extremely relevant are scattered throughout the novel. One of the most frightening thing is how they could easily be poignant in 2017. For example
“Take anything a Muslim touched, add the word Jihadi to it, and immediately you produced something ugly and divisive”
These words are exceptionally powerful!

I highly recommend this novel to all readers, particularly readers of literary and historical novels. But that should not distract from the fact that this is a solid crime fiction novel, with brilliant characters and plot.
5* Genius

Q&A:

It is a huge pleasure to have Ausma on my blog. I was completely new to Ausma’s novels prior to April 2017. Ausma now sits in my list of favourite female authors and this is down to the pure genius behind her novel The Unquiet Dead. I cannot praise this novel enough, not only is it a solid crime fiction novel; it’s exceptional moving, with emotional scenes from the 1995 Bosnian war.
Highly recommended!

Q) For the readers, can you give a brief summary of yourself, The Unquiet Dead and the Inspector Khattak series?

A) I’m a British-born Canadian who currently lives in the United States. I used to practice immigration law and teach international human rights law, but now I write full-time. My books draw on my background in human rights, and I try to tell untold or forgotten stories about pressing human rights issues through the lens of two detectives who solve crimes. The Unquiet Dead is my mystery debut, featuring Inspector Esa Khattak and Sergeant Rachel Getty who work together in Toronto’s Community Policing Section. This book was followed by The Language of Secrets, the short story A Death in Sarajevo, and the third novel in the series Among the Ruins. I’m currently working on the fourth Khattak/Getty mystery.

Q) Esa Khattak is a very intriguing character. He is well-written and I personally loved the diversity of a Muslim Inspector. Did you always plan to have diverse characters? What are your thoughts on diversity within the crime fiction genre?

A) I’m a lifelong fan of mystery fiction and it is still my favourite genre to read. I particularly love British fiction and Scotland Yard mysteries, but yes I can’t help but notice the decided lack of diversity in the genre, both among authors and characters. I do think we need more fiction that is representative of the world we live in—fiction that seems real, multi-vocal, dynamic, and that challenges a single narrative or a single way of seeing and experiencing the world. With regard to my series, I’m simply writing my reality—the world I live in and know intimately, a world that I think is plural, mutually tolerant and inclusive, where people learn from each other all the time and are enriched by that learning, as I hope my readers will witness with Esa and Rachel’s partnership.

Q) Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty are police partners within the community police section. Can you expand for UK readers what the community police section are and what they do?

A) The Community Policing Section is an invention of mine, loosely based on a program run by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in British Columbia. In my version of Community Policing, my two detectives operate under the aegis of Canada’s Department of Justice, and are invited to consult on investigations that involve in minority communities. They have a difficult, somewhat contradictory mandate: to represent the interests of those communities to law enforcement, but also to represent law enforcement within those communities.

Q) The novel has a backdrop of the Bosnian War of 1995. I found this exceptionally moving, in fact it moved me to tears, more than once. What was the research for this part of the novel? Did you set out to place the reader in the position of a witness to the atrocities?

A) My graduate research was on the subject of the Bosnian genocide. I wrote a Master’s thesis on the legal basis for the operation of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (the ICTY)—an international criminal tribunal was ground-breaking at that time. And then my dissertation went on to examine when and where there should be international military intervention for human protection purposes. The fall of Srebrenica during the Bosnian genocide was the focal point of my research. So I was immersed in war crimes testimony, refugee testimony, statements of Bosnian representatives to the United Nations Security Council during the genocide, and though I was a tertiary witness on the side-lines, I thought it was important to remember the voices of the victims. Since writing the book, I’ve often heard from readers that they remember the dissolution of Yugoslavia, but they had no idea of the terrible crimes that were perpetrated during the Bosnian war. Telling a story like this, I hope, is an act of witness—for myself and for my readers.

Q) The novel has a theme of redemption. It is thought-provoking from the perspective of, if redemption is possible for war criminals. I adore the theme of redemption in novels, but this was the first time I felt very uncomfortable with the notion that, there can be forgiveness for such violent and sadistic behaviour. I kept having to pause the reading to digest the topics and thoughts. Was this your intention, to educate the reader and generate thought-provoking themes?

A) I think the theme The Unquiet Dead is most concerned with exploring is the nature of justice. What do we imagine justice looks like? For some time, my research touched on international criminal law. I looked at the kinds of sentences handed down after war crimes trials, and I also considered the vast numbers of genocidaires who’d walked free, escaping any punishment at all. When genocidaires live and move and work among their victims, it raises the question of what justice really is. Is it a trial in a court of law that results in a lenient sentence? What can answer for an act as devastating as the Srebrenica massacre? I think it’s for my readers to decide whether justice has been done by the time they’ve reached the end of the book. And then to ask themselves, why they might feel uncertain or uncomfortable at its conclusion.

Q) The novel also covers the theme of racial/religious persecution. Which I quote some powerful words in my review, that sadly, I feel would be relevant in 2017. I personally believe novels like this can break down barriers and as stated in my review, this is why I am so glad such novels exist. Along your journey of being a published author, have you noticed any change in your readership? What more can be done to break down barriers as a reader or writer?

A) Like my characters, my audience is quite diverse. I think if you try and tell an authentic and honest story, most people will be able to relate to it. And it’s always worthwhile to be able to introduce readers to characters and stories they haven’t seen before, and to make them question their preconceptions about characters like these. I try to do that myself, to challenge my own assumptions and to dig deeper on subjects I think I know, to see what else I can learn. One of the great gifts of literature is that it humanizes us to each other. That’s something we need more than ever today, to be able to perceive the humanity of the Other.

Q) The setting of the novel is the Scarborough Bluffs in Canada. As a UK reader, I had to search via google images, to get an idea of the location. It truly is picturesque and unique. (I shall try add some images for readers). What was the inspiration behind the setting?

A) Ah, great question! I lived on the Scarborough Bluffs when I was a child. I used to walk home from school on a path along the Bluffs, so to me the Bluffs always had a magical, almost unearthly quality. I knew even then that they’d make an atmospheric setting for a story.

SB1 SB3

SB2
Scarborough Bluffs

Q) What are you currently working on? Will there be future Khattak novels released in the UK? Do you write any other series?

A) Yes, the Khattak/Getty novels are all due to be released in the UK. I’m currently working on the fourth book in the series about the Syrian refugee crisis. And at the same time, I’m writing a fantasy series for Harper Voyager US and UK. The first book in the series is called The Bloodprint, and it will be released simultaneously in the US and the UK, this October.

#WhatIsComingNext

THE BLOODPRINT – AUSMA ZEHANAT KHAN

A dark power called the Talisman has risen in the land, born of ignorance and persecution. Led by a man known only known as the One-Eyed Preacher, it is a cruel and terrifying movement bent on world domination—a superstitious patriarchy that suppresses knowledge and subjugates women. And it is growing.

But there are those who fight the Talisman’s spread, including the Companions of Hira, a diverse group of influential women whose power derives from the Claim—the magic inherent in the words of a sacred scripture. Foremost among them is Arian and her apprentice, Sinnia, skilled warriors who are knowledgeable in the Claim. This daring pair have long stalked Talisman slave-chains, searching for clues and weapons to help them battle their enemy’s oppressive ways. Now, they may have discovered a miraculous symbol of hope that can destroy the One-Eyed Preacher and his fervid followers: The Bloodprint, a dangerous text the Talisman has tried to erase from the world.

Finding The Bloodprint promises to be their most dangerous undertaking yet, an arduous journey that will lead them deep into Talisman territory. Though they will be helped by allies—a loyal ex-slave and Arian’s former confidant and sword master—both Arian and Sinnia know that this mission may well be their last.

*Huge thanks to the very talented Ausma Zehanat Khan for taking part in this Q&A on my blog. I wish you huge success with the release of The Unquiet Dead in the UK this July 2017.

AZK
Ausma Zehanat Khan
Authors Links:
Website:          www.ausmazehanatkhan.com
Facebook:        www.facebook.com/ausmazehanatkhan
Twitter:           @AusmaZehanat

 

#MiniReview #Sirens #JosephKnox

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Sirens by Joseph Knox
Synopsis:

It starts with the girl. How it ends is up to DC Aidan Waits.

Isabelle Rossiter has run away again.

When Aidan Waits, a troubled junior detective, is summoned to her father’s penthouse home – he finds a manipulative man, with powerful friends.

But retracing Isabelle’s steps through a dark, nocturnal world, Waits finds something else. An intelligent seventeen-year-old girl who’s scared to death of something. As he investigates her story, and the unsolved disappearance of a young woman just like her, he realizes Isabelle was right to run away.

Soon Waits is cut loose by his superiors, stalked by an unseen killer and dangerously attracted to the wrong woman. He’s out of his depth and out of time.

How can he save the girl, when he can’t even save himself?

My review:

Isabelle Rossiter has run away again!

The novel opens with the complex case of a missing teenager and the detective trying to hold himself together to effectively investigate.

Detective Constable Aidan Waits is summoned to Beetham Tower. An era the boasts the Hilton hotel and some prestigious penthouse suites. The Tower block reminds him of a previous case where an ‘underage sex worker’ from the Czech Republic fell to her death. After being sold into sex trafficking my her father at just 14 years old and having experienced a life of sexual degradation, it was ruled a suicide. Wait’s however, never believed this to be so. This sets the pace and intensity for the novel straight from the go. There is a wealth of unsavoury characters, especially those whom prey upon the vulnerability in others.

Wait’s is met by Detective Sargent Conway and Detective Kernick.
Kernick taking an instant dislike to Wait’s presence at the penthouse. I gathered there was more to this back story and was dying to discover what secrets lurk in Wait’s past.

The penthouse belongs to David Rossiter Tory MP and Secretary of state. Also a barrister by trade, he is concerned about the month long disappearance of his 17 years old daughter Isabelle but wary of bad press. He calls on Waits to ‘off the books’ and discreetly look into Zain Carver a local drug dealer. Who is a known acquaintance of Isabelle’s recently.

There is a wealth of criminal characters and the drug underworld is fully explained. I found this truly eye-opening and I read hundreds of novels every year! There is also a reflection back to a cold case, the Greenlaw appeal is due any moment. An appeal of information into the disappearance of Joanna Greenlaw, who vanished and has never been seen again. Are the two cases related? If so how? Leading to a classic quote from Wait’s “I don’t make assumptions, I only know what I see”

This is an edgy novel that fully explores the effects of urban decay, power and corruption in city life!
3.5*

#GuestPost #SuccessAndFailure @DavidVidecette @The_Detriment @ParadoxTheseus

I can't tell you the truth, but I can tell you a story both books TTP and TD small
David Videcette

#GuestPost:

When success and failure are in the eye of the beholder

 

Abby asked me to talk about success and failure for her blog. How do you define success and when is it achieved? In terms of the writing game, I’m a fairly new author – I don’t have a yardstick to measure either of those things by as yet. So, I will use an incident from my early police days to illustrate what success and failure mean to me.

 

It was a Friday morning, some years ago, in a well-known, busy, inner London police station.

 

‘Well, what are you waiting for? I’ve told you what I think,’ said the DCI, dismissively, without looking up from his computer screen.

 

A layer of smoke hovered above his head in the small office which stank of cigars. He wasn’t allowed to smoke them inside, but that didn’t stop him; rules were for lesser mortals.

 

I didn’t like him much, and he’d made it clear on several occasions that he didn’t like me. I was difficult to manage because I ‘kicked back’, often refusing to do as I was told. Not that I cared that much what this man thought. He was an overpaid, over promoted bully.

He was, however, the overall Crime Manager for the police station in which I worked, and during that particularly sweltering August week, my immediate boss – whom I valued and respected – was away on holiday.

Most of the time I hardly ever had to deal with any of the senior ranks, my boss acted as the middleman and kept the peace; but on this occasion I had to rub along with this DCI for just a few more days.

Drugs charge

‘It’s just wrong that we should seek a charge for possession with intent on this girl…’ I said, trying to impress upon the DCI that enforcing the law to the letter, didn’t feel right in this case.

 

Downstairs in the cells were a boyfriend and girlfriend. The pair had been arrested at a well-known local nightclub. Police had been called by the door staff after the girlfriend had been searched on the way in and found in possession of several wraps of cocaine. The boyfriend had said they were his and she was just holding them for him, as he always got searched, but girls didn’t. The local guys in uniform had brought them both in, then promptly thrown the report onto the desk of one of my CID team, saying, ‘Two in for drugs, one in possession with intent to supply’.

 

The girlfriend was eighteen. She was at university studying to be a doctor. Never been in trouble with the police before; came from a nice family down in Devon. The boyfriend was trouble personified. Had a history of drugs possession offences and was unemployed. Side by side, they looked like beauty and the beast.

 

We tested them both for drugs. He tested positive. Hers came back negative, in line with what she’d told us as about not being a drug user.

 

Their police station interviews were completely consistent with the story they had given at the time of arrest – that he had given the wraps for her to carry just moments before they were searched at the door of the club.

 

The interview guys were positive that both the boyfriend and the girlfriend were telling the truth, but they felt that their hands were tied by the charges. They explained their concerns to me. The law says, when holding drugs for someone else, even momentarily, you’re guilty of possession with intent to supply.

 

I’d already been down to the cells to check out beauty and the beast. As police officers we meet thousands of suspects who pass through our custody suites, most of them on an onward journey into the criminal justice system eventually resulting in a conviction and often jail.

 

Most of those we meet are well known to the system and are indifferent to its outcome, much as the boyfriend was. He’d taken being locked up for the night well within his stride and had snoozed the hours away.

 

The girlfriend was different. Sitting alone in her cell, with just a built-in bed, a plastic mattress and a small stainless steel toilet in the corner for company, red eyed and distraught, she clearly hadn’t slept a wink. I could see her crying through the inspection window.

 

We spoke for a while. She was pale with fear. She explained how she’d met the boyfriend in Starbucks just a week earlier and he’d taken an overly effusive interest in her. At the time she’d welcomed the attention. Only now she realised why he’d been so attentive. He’d had a particular purpose in mind for her.

 

The interview team’s initial impression of her was right. Almost straight away I could tell that she was sincere, honest and straightforward. She’d made a stupid mistake whilst standing in the nightclub queue. Her ‘boyfriend’ of just one week had convinced her to hold a few wraps of drugs for him, just until they got into the club.

 

Yet back upstairs in the office, the DCI was having none of it, ‘Look, if she’s admitted possession, and admitted that they are the boyfriend’s drugs, and she was simply going to pass them back to him in the club, that’s it – it’s game over, that’s all we need to prove. Charge her!’ he bellowed across the desk at me.

 

‘But she’s eighteen. Never been in trouble before. Tested negative for drugs ,’ I replied, a note of annoyance creeping into my voice, ‘This naïve decision to hold onto a few wraps for a few minutes for some career drug dealer she hardly knows is going to ruin the rest of her life. That can’t be right…’

 

‘That’s her stupid fault, not mine. Charge her!’ He turned and looked back at his computer, expecting me to leave the room, and do as I was told.

 

I’d made the mistake of asking for his permission to take no further action against her. I should have just done it off my own back. Permission was much harder to gain than forgiveness in these circumstances.  But here I was, with a lazy DCI who wouldn’t listen to reason or pragmatism.

 

I know many will think that I should have just done as I was told. That the law is the law, and a successful prosecution is all that I should have been concerned about. I wasn’t there to judge her or the situation. But the law really is an ass sometimes. And the best officers are those who apply the law in a practical and balanced way. Sending this girl to court wasn’t going to help her. She’d been conned.

 

I had two choices – do as I was told, or go and see the station commander, who was the DCI’s boss, to try and get him to overrule the decision.

 

Fifteen minutes later the girl was walking out of the police station. The commander had agreed that it was a perverse use of the law and that it served no public good, nor purpose, to charge her. I’d succeeded, I felt good.

 

An hour later I was called into the DCI’s office for a screaming match behind closed doors which could be heard all the way through to the other side of the police station. I’d failed, he said, and I’d done irreparable damage to my career and reputation, he said. I left feeling utterly deflated.

 

From then on, that DCI ensured that I received only the most miserable and insignificant of cases that he could possibly dole out.

 

Was it success or failure?

That was some years ago. The DCI in question has long since left the police. How much has that day affected either me or him? We clashed more often after that, but in the end it was all water under the bridge. I moved on to do some amazing work in Specialist Operations. He retired. In the greater scheme of things that day affected neither of us.

 

The girlfriend went on to have a successful career in medicine and saved many lives. The boyfriend remained trouble. The last I heard, he was in prison.

 

Many of us would never admit it, but we all want our lives to be indelible, and our existence remembered. Success isn’t something that can be defined as a single moment in time. It is something lasting, something good, and something to be built. In short, we want to matter to this world and make a difference.

 David Videcette is a former Scotland Yard investigator with twenty years’ policing experience, including counter-terror operations and organised crime. David is the author of detective thrillers The Theseus Paradox and The Detriment. Based on true events from an insider’s perspective, they will change the way you look at the world.

David Videcette
David Videcette
Authors Links:
Web: https://davidvidecette.com/about-david
Twitter: @DavidVidecette

5* #Review Q&A #BlindSide by @Jennie_Ensor @unbounders @Unbound_Digital

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Blind Side by Jennie Ensor
Synopsis:

Can you ever truly know someone? And what if you suspect the unthinkable?

London, five months before 7/7. Georgie, a young woman wary of relationships after previous heartbreak, gives in and agrees to sleep with close friend Julian. She’s shocked when Julian reveals he’s loved her for a long time.

But Georgie can’t resist her attraction to Nikolai, a Russian former soldier she meets in a pub. While Julian struggles to deal with her rejection, Georgie realises how deeply war-time incidents in Chechnya have affected Nikolai. She begins to suspect that the Russian is hiding something terrible from her.

Then London is attacked…

My Review:

Every so often you stumble across a novel that is so much bigger than its synopsis and its depth astounds you. This is one of them and it is amazingly good!

The prologue opens with intense gun fight scene. However, this does not set the pace for this novel. The novel is based around the relationships of the characters involved, their intentions, emotions and internal struggles. The protagonist Georgie, whilst not being someone, I would not necessarily choose to be friends with, held a fair and honest narrative throughout. She was at times emotionally needy, lonely and immature. Yet at the same time incredibly open, honest and willing to see the good in people.

Georgie’s bestie Julian confesses his love for her, when she fails to reciprocate the feelings. We start to see the sinister and spiteful side to his nature. Georgie still holds out some hope that he will come to terms with the situation. This is one trait in Georgie that I absolutely adored, her ability to see the good in people.

Georgie literally stumbles into Russian Nikolai on a night in a London bar and she is quite taken with his mysterious personality. Although she has no intentions of seeing Nikolai again, it is not long until he is dominating her every thought. Nikolai has been living in London just five weeks. He has struggled to find work and relied upon menial jobs. Georgie is a complex character and in a city the size of London, where thousands of people live, she feels the bitter sting of loneliness and isolation. Will Nikolai offer her a brighter future?

“Everyone I love will leave me in the end”

Nikolai is such a multifaceted character, I really warmed to his struggles and personal demons. Having served in the Russian army via conscription for two years in 1998, He was part of the Russian/Chechen war. He is haunted by this and at times present as an extremely wounded and vulnerable man. Almost reminiscent of the soldiers returning from war that present with symptoms of PTSD but refuse to see the diagnosis themselves. Nikolai is a soul searching for redemption. He immediately draws the reader into his personal story and background.

There are chapters written from the perspective of a someone stalking Georgie. They make for harrowing and intense reading. Is this the jealous Julian or the intense Nikolai? They speak of catching her off guard and talk of her in a degrading way. I felt frightened for her safety, knowing she was completely unaware.

Nikolai begins to open up regarding his past and we see how the gentle nature of Georgie, heals some of his past wounds. They talk about their upbringings, Moscow, past loves and politics. They form a meeting of minds and it is beautiful to read. This is all going well until Georgie stumbles across a cryptic note in Nikolai’s flat detailing a protest and potential violent incident!
When the London 7/7 attacks within days of her discovery, she is forced to ask herself the question, who can you really trust?

The aftermath of the 7/7 attacks details the anti-Islam and immigration feelings that some bought into in the UK. The strain of this and the note’s discovery wreaks havoc on the relationship between Georgie and Nikolai. Nikolai’s attitude towards war and death is so black and white. He has the true mind-set of a soldier. Does being ashamed of your countries actions make you honest or a traitor?

This is an incredible novel of love, insecurities, redemption and humanity.
Highly recommended 5*

Q&A:

JE: Thanks Abby for inviting me on your blog – and apologies for the length of some answers. I’m not good at being brief!

Q) For the readers can you tell us about yourself and your novel Blind Side?

A) I’ve a background in journalism, copywriting, physics and disparate other things. I’m now focussed on writing novels, flash fiction and poetry.

Blind Side is my first published novel, which I crowdfunded with Unbound. It was their first ‘digital first’ title, published one year ago (23 July). A paperback came out this February.

Blind Side is a thriller crossed with a love story, set in London during 2005. It’s narrated by a young Englishwoman, Georgie. She meets a Russian, Nikolai, recently arrived in London who was conscripted to fight in Russia’s war with Chechnya. Despite her misgivings about his possible psychological damage and the secrets he keeps – and the jealousy of Julian, her close friend – Georgie starts to fall for Nikolai. The novel follows the three as their lives become entwined and impacted by wider events, in particular the July terror attacks.

Q) what was the inspiration behind the plot of the novel and the themes of terrorism?

A) I’ve long been interested in how ordinary people cope with near intolerable situations. I wanted to explore a young soldier’s response (guilt, etc) to the terrible things he his forced to do and witness during wartime. I made him Russian after seeing photos of the devastation of Grozny. (I’ve also long been a fan of Russian novels.) As well I was interested in trust and how some people’s backgrounds make it difficult for them to withstand the intimacy of a relationship, and I wondered what might happen if a young woman with trust issues was intensely attracted to Nikolai, a guy who’s volatile, secretive and a potential source of danger.

As to the inspiration for the terrorism aspects in my novel, I admit I’m fascinated by stories of people who commit serious crimes which remain undiscovered for a long time. I was living in London during the July tube and bus attacks, and like many others was deeply shocked by them. After reading about the ‘homegrown’ backgrounds of the 7/7 suicide bombers, who had been living as fairly ordinary, unsuspected members of their community, I wanted to make the attacks and their aftermath a key part of the novel. (I’d already decided to set in 2005 London, as I prefer to anchor novels in a specific time period). Doing this allowed me to expand my idea of Nikolai’s hidden dark side, and to link his past fighting separatist ‘terrorist’ forces in Chechnya with the present of terrorist attacks in London.

Q) Georgie and Nikolai have such different/unique outlooks on life. I am myself married to a veteran that has served in war, that we now know was illegal and unlawful. The emotions Nikolai goes through were raw, intelligent and honest. Was Nikolai based upon anyone from real life and how was he researched?

A) No, he’s not based on a real person. But looking back now 12 years after I began the novel, I see there are echoes of a real person I knew with respect to certain aspects of his character. Much of Nikolai just came to me fully formed though – his way of speaking and mannerisms, for example.

How he was researched – I have Russian friends, and I found other Russians and asked them about their lives. Also I interviewed men who’d fought in Chechnya who were being treated in London for trauma-related issues, and read a lot about Russia and life as a soldier during this period.

Q) The politics within the novel was kept to a minimum and the novel focused on the humanity of the people involved. Was this an intentional narrative?

A) Absolutely. While I did include some passionate arguing, e.g. on whether terrorism can ever be justified, the novel focusses on the journeys and interactions of my central characters. The politics is there in the background but it’s the emotional punch of my characters’ interactions that’s crucial, and the collision of their beliefs and backgrounds. I deliberately made the political views/world affairs knowledge of my narrator fairly weak – as per Bridget Jones re Chechnya 🙂 – so readers not much interested in politics could relate to her and become immersed in the story.

Q) There were pieces of writing, which I can’t include for fear of spoilers, such as Zara’s story. What did you learn in your research of the Russian/Chechen war that you wanted to include but could not?

A) For months I was absorbed in finding out about the two wars between Russia and Chechnya in the 90s and the impact they had on soldiers and civilians. Zara, a Chechen woman in Blind Side is made up but her story is based on real incidents. Many of them were harrowing to read about. Thankfully I also came across uplifting stories of people showing great courage and dedication, e.g. a Frenchwoman who disguised herself as a local and spent months reporting undercover from conflict areas, and a Chechen surgeon who routinely saved lives on both sides, despite inadequate resources and his hospital being bombed. (My book includes a list of the non-fiction titles I used for research.) However I knew I needed a strong focus or I’d be writing a documentary. This turned out to be Zara.

Q) Is the process for writing such an emotive novel, draining? Do you start to see situations through the eyes of your characters?

A) Yes, at times I felt low after writing certain chapters, especially those which involved extreme violence or inhumanity. I have perfectionist tendencies so I’ll rewrite something until I know it’s right, which doesn’t help! Yes, I got to know my characters very well and tried to react to things as they would, particularly Georgie and Nikolai, who as you say have very different outlooks.

Q) What has been your favourite part of being a published author?  

A) I’m still waiting to come across someone reading the book on a bus or train… hopefully one day! Out of what I’ve experienced so far though, it’s a real joy whenever I find a reader who completely gets what I was trying to say with my novel. That truly makes the hard graft worthwhile.

Q) If I had to sum up your novel using five words, they would be: emotional, intelligent, redemption, relationships and humanity. What five words would you use?

A) Secrets, jealousy, trauma, trust, forgiveness (and healing)

Q) What are your favourite reads of 2017 so far?

A) The Girls by Emma Cline, set in 1969 California. I’ve not finished the book but judging from what I read it may well be my favourite book this year. Out of books I’ve read by not published this year, I much enjoyed the eerie Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, also with a historical setting, and Before I Let You In by Jenny Blackhurst, an interesting psychological novel centred around a psychiatrist and her patient.

Q) what is next for Jennie Ensor? Do you have another novel planned and can we, as readers look forward to another 5* read?

A) I am writing the last chapters of a novel involving a serial child abuser and his family, who are starting to suspect him – it has some very dark subject matter and has also been pretty tough to write at times. Clearly, I’m a sucker for a challenge!

*Huge thanks to author Jennie Ensor for being part of a Q&A on my blog and I wish you every success in your writing career.

JE
Jennie Ensor
Authors Links:
Blog & website: http://www.jennieensor.com
Author facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JennieEnsorAuthor
Twitter: @jennie_ensor 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jennieensor/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15511227.Jennie_Ensor