Against the background of the hereditary Khedive's dithering over the choice of a new Prime Minister, a wave of (mostly ineffectual) attacks on civil servants--just maybe acts of low-level terrorism- -leads David Cadwallader Owen, the Mamur Zapt of colonial Cairo, to investigate Ali Osman Pasha, a beating victim who turns out to be a candidate for the PM post. Then the attacks turn serious with a bombing in a downtown cafÇ that has links both to a years-long series of bombs carried by university students and to up-to-the-minute slave rings and gunrunners working near, yes, Ali Osman's estate in Lower Egypt. Along the way to his usual drolly underplayed ending, Owen will develop a surprising friendship with a thieving gypsy girl and send his old ministerial friend Mahmoud on a spectacularly successful undercover mission as a law student. Pearce's last few plots (The Mamur Zapt and the Donkey-Vous, etc.) have wound his sly, gentle satire more tightly than ever. The most satisfying entry yet in this attractive series.