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Blackwater Falls

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Blackwater Falls

by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Published by: Minotaur
Publish Date: November 2022
Genre(s): Mystery, Thriller, BIPOC, Contemporary
HB&W Rating: 2
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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.

Synopsis source: Goodreads


Thank you to Minotaur Books and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this eARC in exchange for my honest review.

I really wanted to like this book, but ultimately, it fell short of the mark for me. The plot sounded intriguing, a Muslim girl murdered and displayed like she’d been crucified just screamed possibilities. However, from the slow pacing to the disorganized plot, I almost DNF’d this one. The only reason I didn’t is because I thought that being written from a Muslim perspective, there was something to learn, so I kept going.

The author did a few things very well. I thought that Detective Rahman’s struggle to reconcile who she was with the pressures put upon her because of what she believed was something that everyone can relate to on some level, and was an excellent bridge between mainstream Christian America and the Muslim community to build empathy. To that end, I also think that showing us what Muslims and refugees face in this country via the characters in this book was handled very compassionately.

However, this book was just not for me. Quite literally, I think. I liked the insight into what Muslim life looks like in America, but I wanted more. There were things that as a white Christian woman I didn’t understand that a Muslim reader would relate to so much more. I wanted more detail or explanation, but I also understand that it isn’t the burden of minority communities to educate me, and explaining those things in the story would have taken away from the thriller aspect of this plot, more than the pacing and disorganization already did.

When I read a thriller, I expect it to keep me on edge the whole time, and this book just did not. The pacing was so slow that more often than not, I would fall asleep after only a page or two. When I was able to make it past that, I struggled to keep up with what was happening. Sometimes, the writing was clear, other times it seemed like parts were added as afterthoughts without making sure that it really flowed. The overall effect was confounding.

Adding to the overall confusion, the multiple POVs were not done well, in my opinion. I spent a large amount of time at the beginning of each chapter trying to figure out whose POV I was in. The language at the beginning of each chapter didn’t always immediately identify which character’s view we were seeing. Sometimes it seemed like it could be from either Qas’ or Inaya’s POV, or both at the same time, or multiple POVs in one chapter without any break to identify the POV change.

Another problem I had with this book was that the synopsis led me to believe that Inaya, Catalina, and Areesha would be more of a girl power trio than they were, but instead, Catalina and Areesha were relegated to subpar, flatly drawn supporting characters and didn’t add much to the story. Instead, there was more focus on the attraction between Qas and Inaya, which in my opinion did nothing for the story at all. This felt like a missed opportunity.

While the pacing took away from the “thriller” aspect of this story, it was a startling look at the prejudice, bigotry, us/them dichotomy, and hate that divides our country so prevalently today, making this a timely and relevant story for our time. The Disciples biker gang, Pastor Wayne, and the fellow cops in Inaya’s flashback all came across as flat stereotypical figures spewing hate and ignorance that was hard to believe that anyone could actually believe it enough to say. However, as any news site will tell you, it’s all very real, especially for the people that this hatred and ignorance are aimed at.

While I believe that these stories are important and necessary to educate and to build empathy and understanding in a predominantly White Christian America, I fear the shortcomings of this story will prevent that from happening in this case. I almost gave up on it myself, so if others do that, then they’ll never learn from the story.

Until next time,

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