From 1947 to 1956 (with a curtain call in 1969), the pages of Collier’s were enlivened by the figure of little Inspector Chafik J. Chafik of the Baghdad CID. In the 15 tales reprinted here, Chafik is consistently identifiable by his polka-dot tie, Kurdish cigarettes, phenomenal memory, determination to examine the facts until all “the threads weave into a pattern,” and interrogation techniques that include a good thrashing now and then help him keep the peace in a polyglot society. Abetted by the dour Sgt. Abdullah and a band of ragamuffin street urchins led by his adopted son Faisal, Chafik wends his way through date palms, bazaar stalls, and antiquities sites to assign guilt to chaddor-wearing murderers, flea-riddled amulet-makers, hashish smugglers, dinar counterfeiters, spurned lovers, and greedy relatives all too eager to claim their inheritance. A piece of halvah (“Death Was a Wedding Guest”), a grieving pair of swifts (“All the Birds of the Air”), and a clump of wet sand (“The Inspector Is Discreet”) are some of the more intriguing clues Chafik has to work with. Perhaps no one outside the pages of Carter Dickson and Clayton Rawson has been presented with so many variations on the locked-room puzzle, including the ingenious pair “The Man Who Wasn’t There” and “Invisible Killer.”
Low-key and charming, with just enough twists and turns to give your brains a good workout.