Face in the Cemetery
Mamur Zapt Mystery
By Michael Pearce
As Mamur Zapt, Captain
Gareth Owen has been an appreciative observer of the human comedy
created by interactions among the various peoples living in Egypt.
Not the least of his worldly charms has been the sense of an essential
Egyptian way of doing things at the core, with intrusions from the
outside world forced to change their own ways to suit it rather
than being the ones imposing all the change. But it's 1914 and the
clouds around WWI hang heavily everywhere. Suddenly Owen's world
is full of too many real changes and not-so-funny interactions.
Instead of the sort of political
investigations and balancing acts that make up the job he's enjoyed,
the Mamur Zapt's time is now devoted to hunting down registered
Germans for internment. On the domestic front, Owen and Zeinab have
decided it's past time they dealt with the issues around their cross-cultural
relationship to either regularize it by marriage or separate before
they're too old to find someone new. Zeinab has taken a huge first
step by moving in with Owen, but it's a shaky one, made shakier
by his considering volunteering to fight in the war.
Professional and personal problems
intersect when one of the Germans Owen is reluctantly rounding up
turns out to be the face on a mummy discovered in a cat cemetery.
Investigation into her death makes clear its roots in desperate
unhappiness arising out of a European/Egyptian mixed marriage such
as he and Zeinab are contemplating. Meanwhile Owen also has to sort
out the ramifications of a shortsighted plan to arm country watchmen.
Ramifications include two hundred missing rifles that seem to be
turning up in strange places, such as the hands of a thumb sucking
girl or the brigands from whom she rescues Owen.
It's the human comedy
absurdities in a vividly depicted setting that make the Mamur Zapt
books such a delight. There's more sadness in this one than others
in this effervescent series, but it's still highly recommended as
an escape to another world full of color and life and memorable