The death of a teenage girl strikes painfully close to home for Sudanese private eye Makana.
Cairo, 2002. Makana and his operative Sindbad are being handsomely paid by the imperious Magdy Ragab to follow her lawyer husband around, presumably for proof of his infidelity. Ironically, the supposed cheater separately contacts Makana and takes him to a clinic where a young woman named Karima lies dying after being severely burned. Comparisons to Makana's daughter, Nasra, and wife, Muna, both tragically killed, wrench him emotionally and make it impossible for him to turn down the investigation of Karima's burning, the details of which are shrouded in mystery. And how is she connected to the respected attorney and his wife? It's easy to see that Makana needs to answer this question but hard to see how. When he asks Mrs. Ragab about it, she offers him more and more money but makes no personal disclosures. Later, on the street, Makana is buttonholed by a different woman who claims that she's Magdy Ragab. Karima's death only intensifies Makana's commitment to the case even though his friend, Inspector Okasha, counsels him to abandon it. His probe takes Makana to the Sahara desert, where trouble follows. The mutilated corpse of a local qadi (judge) is found in the lake called Birket Siwa. Like Makana, he had been searching for the man believed to be Karima's father. Whom can Makana trust?
With its elegant prose and its incisive insight into the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Makana's third appearance (Dogstar Rising, 2013, etc.) transcends genre, satisfying fans of both mystery and literary fiction.