Monday, April 29, 2013

The Abbey by Chris Culver

The AbbeyThe Abbey by Chris Culver

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ever seen those books from the 1960s where one volume had two books, with one printed upside-down and back-to-back with the other?

That concept is why wound up with this book. I requested The Outsider from the Amazon Vine program. I found ... lucky me! ... that the publisher had the first book in the series upside-down and backed up to it. Turns out The Abbey was a huge seller as an ebook and is now coming out in print.
I may not have been a very good Muslim, but my religion called me to seek and foster justice. It’s a divine edict as stringent as any command in any faith. Nobody gets a pass, least of all somebody who hurt my niece.
I was intrigued by the protagonist being an American Muslim police detective but the story itself was pretty interesting. Detective Sergeant Ashraf Rashid hasn't worked homicide in a long time but his niece is murdered and he asks his ex-partner to let him look into it. Ash knows his niece wasn't a drug user so when the coroner calls it an overdose, he turns up the heat. A string of deaths, pressure to stop investigating, and anonymous threats to his family add to Ash's problems. The plot goes into overdrive and is somewhat overblown by the end, but I forgave it because I was unwilling to stop reading and flipping pages ever faster. I read it in one evening ... the author clearly hooked me.

What made the story stand out was Ash himself. He rationalizes his drinking despite the fact that he shouldn't as a practicing Muslim. Heck, he rationalizes drinking as a husband when he rinses with mouthwash before going home, and as a cop, which we see when he's busted while driving. Clearly Ash is struggling with his profession.

What really fascinated me were the threads of faith woven throughout ... as it defines Ash's identity, as it is seen within his family, and how it is practiced in everyday American life (he can’t go to a certain diner for pancakes because they are cooked on the same griddle with bacon). These points aren't dwelt upon but are just ever-present in his life, just as my Catholicism is for me (I couldn't have eaten that bacon on a Friday). That made Ash into a much more developed character than we'd have seen otherwise and lifted the book above the common.

Overall it was an enjoyable book and I'm glad to have the sequel, The Outsider, as close as flipping the book over and opening the "back" cover.

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