The Mamur Zapt investigates a murder and related events that highlight racial tensions in 1912 Cairo.
When auctioneer Sidi Morelli is found strangled in a dark alleyway, the murder investigation falls to British Chief of Secret Police Gareth Cadwallader Owen, the Mamur Zapt of colonial Cairo. Though Morelli and his widow lived in Cairo for 40 years and considered themselves Egyptian, his Italian birth made him a target of racial prejudice. Even Owen, as a Welshman, has suffered some local snubbing and discomfort among his British colleagues. Since Morelli was strangled and not garrotted, Owen is convinced that the killing wasn’t the work of a professional. Who, then? Morelli’s best friend, shopkeeper Mahmoud, insists that the Italian had no enemies. Owen’s low-key investigation, interwoven with plans for a new railroad, brings him up against three strong women. Mahmoud’s arranged marriage to young Aisha, whom he has never met, hit some predictable bumps and an unexpected backlash. Owen’s relationship with Zeinab, his Egyptian mistress, is threatened by jealousy and her father’s decision to move to Constantinople. And a vibrant German adventuress named Trudi von Ramsberg is obviously visiting Cairo on a mission, but what?
This 13th case for the Mamur Zapt (The Fig Tree Murder, 2003, etc.) overflows with superb historical color and interesting characters. Newcomers may be a little lost, but are likely to want more.