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The Point in the Market
A Mamur Zapt Mystery

By Michael Pearce

     Captain Gareth Owen is the Mamur Zapt, responsible for political investigations: a continual balancing act between Egyptian sensibilities and occupying British interests. The current tale opens on a typical scene, with Owen's patrol of the Camel Market interrupted by a slightly absurd, but serious to the participants, slice of life clash, surrounded by a Greek chorus of interested observers. These are true puzzle-based mysteries, but the real charm of the Mamur Zapt books stems from joining Owen as an intelligent and appreciative observer of the comedy of manners around him, then applauding his wit and flexibility in translating between British mandates and Egyptian reality.

     WWI's arrival has magnified the gossip, intrigue, scheming, and conflicting loyalties that are a normal part of life in Cairo. What used to be simple interest is now spying. There's money to be made -some of it honestly- but also from trading in arms or very non-Moslem liquor houses for the soldiers. The occupying Brit's deposition of the pro-Turk Khedive has removed any pretense of their being merely background advisors. And the Turks themselves are across the Canal, with the only question being when they attack. Egypt, long a hodgepodge of nationalities, isn't sure who cares about Egyptian interests or what those really are any more. Owen finds these political conflicts from his professional life reflected in his personal life, now that he has married pasha's daughter Zeinab, his long time lover. Their mixed marriage has left them no longer wholly accepted by either the British or the Egyptians, sure that they love each other but not sure of much else.

      Meanwhile the body of one of Owen's informants is found near the Camel Market, leaving twin mysteries around who killed him and what was the message he died before passing on. A rebellious young nationalist and an heir to the Egyptian throne taking an unseemly interest in Zeinab occupy two of the other rings in the Mamur Zapt's personal circus. This is an enjoyable entry in a fun series: full of life, color, humor and humanity. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

The Book

Poisoned Pen Press
April 2005
Historical Crime [WWI Cairo, Egypt]
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The Reviewer

Kim Malo
Reviewed 2005
© 2005