THE ABBEY is one of those success stories that keep dreams going. Chris Culver originally self-published his work as an eBook and did very well with it. This resulted in a publishing deal, the initial fruit of which is its appearance in physical book form. The best part of the story is that the finished product lives up to the hoopla surrounding it, as THE ABBEY is an engrossing, riveting work with a character who is instantly likable.
Ash Rashid is a bit of a fish out of water, a practicing though by no means strict Muslim who is on the Indianapolis Metro Police Department. The plan for the future, as Rashid has it mapped out, is to leave the force sooner rather than later; a former homicide detective, he has totally lost the desire to investigate any more deaths. But he gets sucked back into it when a new victim turns out to be his niece, Rachel. At the beginning of THE ABBEY, Rashid handles the next-of-kin notification to his sister and brother-in-law himself, which serves as a poignant introduction to the character and subsequent investigation. The death is quickly classified as a drug overdose, but Rashid almost immediately concludes that the crime scene evidence points to a murder. The place of death --- the guest house of one of Indianapolis’s most prominent and wealthy movers and shakers --- is suspicious as well.
"THE ABBEY is an engrossing, riveting work with a character who is instantly likable."
Rashid’s superiors on the force don’t want to hear his theories, which go counter to the official conclusion of his niece’s demise. When he begins pushing and probing on his own, kicking over some very large rocks in pursuit of the truth, he is officially ordered to cease and desist. But Rashid can’t stop and follows a trail of truth that takes him to unexpected places and situations where much more than his vocational future will be put in jeopardy.
Rashid’s strength as a character is in his ordinariness. He is a policeman contemplating a career change to the practice of law --- you would be surprised at how often that occurs --- and happens to be a Muslim. Culver avoids incorporating a number of obvious cliches; for example, Rashid’s turf is Indianapolis, a city not exactly known for having a large Muslim population (I have no idea if it does or not) as opposed to, say, Dearborn or Detroit. He is intelligent, though not necessarily gifted, and simply uses his skill set, which includes keen powers of observation to the utmost. However, he is more Steve Carella than Sherlock Holmes. And he is more than a cop. As an example, he worries about having to cancel his anniversary plans with his wife so that he can be the one to break the news of his niece’s death to his family.
Don’t think for a second, though, that you have stumbled into a domestic drama when you pick up THE ABBEY. The tale that begins with the death of one of Rashid’s loved ones is a dark and sordid one that will take Rashid --- and the reader --- places that neither will easily forget.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 28, 2013