Keith Miles is probably best recognised by readers under the pen name of Edward Marston. He writes several well-received historical mysteries spanning the 11th century through to the 19th century. His website is www.edwardmarston.com
Parker Bilal is the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub, a fine novelist who has turned with striking success to the crime genre. Readers familiar with the earlier Makana novels, The Golden Scales and Dogstar Rising, will not be disappointed by this latest outing.
It has maintained the high standard of its predecessors. Grief-stricken at the loss of his wife and daughter, and exiled from his native Sudan by political unrest, Makana is a committed policeman now working in Cairo as a private detective. When he takes on a routine assignment, it has a deadly conclusion. A teenage girl is murdered in what he suspects may be an honour killing. Makana feels impelled to track down the killer and travels to Siwa – an oasis town on the edge of the Sahara desert – to find out more about the girl and her background.
The local police offer ambiguous assistance while others actively mislead him. Makana soon finds that the questions he’s asking put him in danger. The one source of genuine help is Zahra, a woman with a burning sense of justice and her own agenda. Bilal’s story is set in 2002 and the impact of 9/11 is still echoing around the world. A good knowledge of 21st century Egyptian politics and attitudes will enrich your pleasure but, even without it, you will be able to enjoy a gritty, gripping yarn with something to say about police corruption and official involvement in crimes against women.
Makana is an engaging character with admirable tenacity, a no-nonsense approach and a determination not take anything at face value. In the heat of Saharan desert, he battles on as people try to deflect, deceive and intimidate him. There are times when his poker-faced conversations with various people go on too long and Zahra is under-used, but the overall impression is of a powerful novel on an important theme written with passion and insight. Makana will be back. Look out for him.
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