Poisoned Pen, Dec 2003, 24.95
Owen Gareth, the Mamur Zapt, the head of Cairo's secret police, becomes involved in a dispute over a corpse. The local Parquait should work what seems like a non-political murder, but an incident could occur before the law enforcement official arrives on the scene. The electric railroad construction workers want to leave the crime scene pure, but Sheikh Isa insists on moving the body. The Mamur Zapt manages to stall the groups until the Parquait arrives.
Because the case is not political Owen feels he has no further involvement. However, his superiors, the foreign investors, and even the local Islamic leaders want him to look into the murder that is linked to a fig tree that many believe is the Tree of the Virgin. Thus religious differences have surfaced as well as international and social issues. As he investigates the crime, the Mamur Zapt finds himself embroiled into the construction of a pleasure city with a casino that is at the crossroads of the caravans to Mecca. Egypt is divided between varying interests with only Gareth seeking the truth.
The tenth early twentieth century Mamur Zapt mystery is a superb tale that as with the previous ones emphasizes Egypt during a pivotal moment in the country's history. Ancient Egypt battles with modernization as depicted by caravan vs. railroad. The investigation is brilliantly managed to enhance the era so that the audience receives a powerful who-done-it and why, but an even greater insight into the clashing social classes. Michael Pearce continues to demonstrate he is one of the best writers of historical mysteries with this delightful look at Egypt at the crossroads.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner