Poisoned Pen, July 2003, 24.95, 208 pp.
Thirty years ago the Khedive, the ruler of Egypt, invited The British in to help sort out his country's finances. The British never left and now in 1908, the English are the true rulers of the country in all but name. Gareth Owen, the person in charge of security known as the Mamur Zapt, has a relatively easy time of it until the Khedive invited Grand Duke Nicholas, heir to the Russian throne, for a visit.
There are many nationalities and ethnic groups living in Egypt, groups like the Mingrelians who were forced to flee when the Russian army invaded their homeland in the Caucasus. The Georgians too resent the Russians for wiping out their homeland and some of these groups work together to make a political statement by killing Nicholas with a bomb. Owen works overtime to defuse the radical elements and he has matters under control until the explosives are stolen from under the eyes of his informant. To prevent an international incident, Owen must figure out who is the mastermind that is controlling events and bring him in before he assassinates the Grand Duke.
Readers get a very clear picture of the culture, politics and growing nationalism in 1908 Egypt. Michael Pearce paints a very sympathetic picture of the country almost a century ago as a nation who welcomed displaced ethnic groups who had no where else to go. There is a lot of subtle humor in THE MINGRELIAN CONSPIRACY, which is needed when the tension level of the story line reaches extreme levels. Mr. Pearce is a gifted storyteller who makes the past come alive in the mind's eye.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner