Book review: A murder and a cover-up in 1960s Pakistan

Berkeley resident Aamina Ahmad’s stunning debut novel, The Return of Faraz Ali, follows a police detective assigned to cover up the death of a young girl.

Street scene in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1970, around the time much of the action in this novel takes place. Credit: Stanford AI Lab

Pakistan was bathed in blood at its inception in 1947 and has rarely known peace ever since. PartitionFour wars and numerous border conflicts with India. The Bangladesh Liberation War, when East Pakistan split from the west. Numerous military coups throughout Pakistani history beginning in 1951, leading to several decades under military rule. More recently, the rise of the Pakistani Taliban. And tens of millions of poor Pakistanis simply attempting to live their lives in peace. This is the backdrop to Berkeley resident Aamina Ahmad’s stunning debut novel, The Return of Faraz Ali.


The Return of Faraz Ali by Aamina Ahmad (2022) 353 pages  ★★★★☆


A murder, a cover-up and a search for his roots

Now, in 1968, Wajid has eased Faraz into a desirable post as a senior police detective. But the time has come for Faraz to return the many favors. Wajid, now the executive secretary of the province, orders him to transfer to the Mohalla. There, he is to cover up the death of a young girl. Wajid insists the death was accidental. But it’s clear she was shot by one of several men in the room where she was plying her trade as a prostitute. Clearly, someone powerful has shot the girl. Was it the district councillor? Wajid himself? Or someone yet more powerful? The mystery Faraz must solve bedevils him, with everyone around him, including the victim’s family, insisting he ignore the facts. And, meanwhile, living once again in his birthplace, Faraz sets out to search for his long-lost mother.

Continue reading this review on Mal Warwick’s Blog on Books.

Mal Warwick built a business in Berkeley, where he has lived since 1969. He has been reviewing books for Berkeleyside since 2012.