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Publisher: Constable (Constable & Robinson)  
Release Date: October 2003 
ISBN:  1841196762
Format Reviewed: Hardback 
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Historical Crime [1922 Afghanistan]
Reviewed: 2003
Reviewer:  Rachel A Hyde
Reviewer Notes:  

The Damascened Blade
By Barbara Cleverly

     Joe Sandilands was last seen heading home for Scotland Yard, but here he is back on secondment and staying with an old friend who is commander of a frontline fort. There is a truce with the Afghans following years of intermittent conflict, but assembled at the fort are just the people to light the blue touch paper and start another war. Each of them has something to hide and when a Pathan prince dies suddenly the Afghans ride off with a hostage. It is up to Joe to sort things out, while trying unsuccessfully to chaperone fabulously rich American heir Lily Coblenz. He will find that the answer lies in the past, and all the guests at the fort could have a motive to be the killer.

     Barbara Cleverly combines the readability of Agatha Christie with a sharp eye for detail and draws many parallels with the present situation in Afghanistan without resorting to anachronism. What appears on the surface to possess many elements of the "cosy" crime school paints a bleak and uncompromising picture of a place that seems to spell doom to anybody who is not native. The two contrasting elements of this novel work well together and add up to a novel that is pacy, readable and original, not least because it is peopled with the sort of characters associated with classic crime novels of the era it depicts. This continues to be a series to watch for, and to look forward to. Classic era crime for modern readers.