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Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Release Date: May 2004
ISBN: 1590580664
Awards:   Shortlisted for the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger for historical
Format Reviewed: Hardback
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Genre:   detective fiction / Historical Crime [1909 Egypt]
Reviewed: 2004
Reviewer: Kim Malo
Reviewer Notes:  

Death of An Effendi 
A Mamur Zapt Mystery 
By Michael Pearce

      Michael Pearce’s early 20th century Egypt is the proverbial world at a crossroads: a kaleidoscope of clashes and connections between the old world of the pashas—with holdovers dating back to the pharaohs—and the new world of the British occupation, international finance, and Egyptian nationalism. This could be the stuff of spy thrillers or dark sociological drama. But in Pearce’s hands it’s a celebration of the human comedy, full of memorable characters and small personal dramas, bringing the reader readily into the vividly depicted world of the setting.

     Gareth Owen, the Mamur Zapt, is head of the Secret Police and more usually involved in putting out political fires than acting as personal bodyguard. Which may be why the subject of his guarding—a Russian financier named Tvardovsky—gets shot to death practically under his nose. Everyone from the local authorities to a royal prince seems determined to treat the death as the regrettable hunting accident it might even be. But a few too many coincidences, and all this determined brushing under the table, leave Owen and friend Mahmoud El Zaki of the Parquet (the Department of Prosecutions of the Ministry of Justice) determined to investigate. Untangling Tvardovsky’s wide ranging interests in Egyptian affairs enough to see if any of them might be worth killing him over takes them through the worlds of Russian émigrés, village markets, shareholder scams, and the Capitulations at the heart of the foreign power vs. native conflict in Egyptian politics. But finally, with the help of a grape-stealing village boy, the Royal Prince, and a Russian woman whose shooting impresses the Prince more than her beauty, they arrive at the solution to most of the mysteries of Tvardovsky's life and his death. Following along on the journey makes for a highly amusing read in a fun series.