The Unseen is the third book in Laury Silvers’ “Sufi Mysteries Quartet” sequence. It is also, in someways, the most complex story yet. For not only is they’re a mystery to solve, the murder of a young man, we also delve deep into the sectarian divide between Sunni and Shia Islam, and the horrors it has the potential to create.
Tein and Ammar, from the Graves Crimes unit of the Baghdad police, are called to investigate when the body of a young man is found. Not only has he been killed by arrows, he has been killed in a manner identical to that of a famed Shia martyr.
Ammar, being Shia, recognizes the pattern of the wounds immediately and is convinced the murder has something to do with stirring up trouble between the two communities. Tein isn’t initially as certain, but as their investigation continues he is gradually convinced somebody wants to plunge Baghdad into chaos.
The two men have to hurry to find a solution, because the first signs of civil unrest of this kind will have the Caliph’s army out in the streets to put down any violence. Even their presence in the streets will be sure to provoke the Shia community – perhaps even ensuring an attack upon the soldiers – which would provoke a response and a quick escalation into unrest.
However, there’s more to The Unseen than a murder – there’s also the matter of the meaning behind the book’s title. When Tein’s sister Zaytuna has a dream she thinks signals the end of the world, she goes to the leader of her Sufi community for guidance. First he tells her that having dreams/visions – or being able to witness the unseen – is a sign she’s reached a new stage on her spiritual path.
However, he also cautions her not to take dreams literally for the dream could be about the end of something in her world not the actual end of the world. Complicating matters is the fact Zayuna’s dream could also have bearing on the murder Ammar and Tein are investigating.
The problem with dreams lies in their interpretation. For people can twist their dreams to mean anything – especially if they have an agenda. While Zaytuna makes honest attempts to understand her dream, other characters aren’t so scrupulous.
They’ll twist anything to make it work for them. Even going as far as claiming God guided their hand to kill someone. Which leads to Zaytuna having one of the best lines of the book -“Another man who thinks he’s the hand of God”. You can almost hear her disdain drip off the page.
Aside from the setting, 900 CD Baghdad, what differentiates The Unseen, and the rest of the series, is the attention Silver pays to her characters. Certainly they are preoccupied with the murder they are investigating, but all of them have histories and stories.
The Unseen continues where the first two books left off (The Lover and The Jealous) in developing the main characters. It’s as if each book reveals a new inner layer to each person. Whether an insecurity, a strength or even a hitherto unforeseen capacity for love, each revelation brings both the books and the characters to life in a way which is highly unusual for most mystery stories.
Returning to the streets of Baghdad in The Unseen is like visiting a familiar neighbourhood filled with people we know. Whether travelling through the palaces of the rich, the poor neighbourhoods, or the Mosques of the city, the characters are the perfect guides.
With The Unseen Silvers continues where she left off in creating a world populated with interesting characters and thought provoking themes. These are wonderful reads which will both educate and enthral.