Collier's first novel is a lackluster romance set in the dusty slums of Cairo and on Alexandria's tourist-strewn beach. Charlotte Peel is a scholarly 35-year-old stationed in Cairo, expected to have a sterling future in the British Foreign Office. But when her employers order her to break off an affair with Hassan Khatib, a local businessman with a sleazy reputation, she resigns in a huff. Back home in Suffolk, England, she waits for Hassan to send for her. When the summons comes, she locks up her cottage and catches a plane, bringing along a parcel of books he's requested. After a night of steamy sex on Hassan's houseboat, trusting Charlotte is sent to stay in a distant apartment, supposedly to wait for Hassan to clear up some details with the wife he's promised to divorce. As the days pass with no sign of Hassan, poor Charlotte begins to wonder if there might not be some truth to the rumor that he's an international jewel thief. In fact, might she have smuggled in a bracelet in that heavy package of books? Too proud to contact her former employers, with only a few traveler's checks left, Charlotte takes a room in an impoverished quarter of the city and begins to give English lessons. She gets a rotten case of hepatitis and almost dies. Skeleton-thin but slowly recovering, she then meets Andreas, a Greek street-artist, who enlists her in a band of musicians who roam the beach in Alexandria, entertaining sÃ¹nbathing tourists. Before long, Charlotte and Andreas fall in love; it's only a matter of months before he becomes a critically acclaimed artist and she writes a book on Egyptian art and architecture. There are occasionally deft snapshots of Egyptian exotica here, but a remarkably dumb heroine and a bland love story make this Middle Eastern holiday a washout.