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Cairo, 1910. Captain Owen, The Mamur Zapt, is the head of Egypt's Political CID in the heyday of British Rule. He is ultimately responsible for law and order in the Khedive's Cairo. When the rules, whether obvious or hidden, are flouted, he steps into action - although it sometimes looks like he's merely stepped sideways, out of the way.
Now it is the end of the boom, leaving banks beleaguered and borrowers in trouble whether the poorest land-working fellahin or the richest land-owning Pashas. Then a civil servant suspiciously dies at his desk. The whiff of corruption is in the air. Even Owen, who is supposed to be investigating the affair, appears to be living beyond his means. As he turns to such unlikely allies as the Grand Mufti, the local barber, and the Widow Shawquat, he penetrates to the heart of such sinister organizations as the Khedive's Agricultural Society. The rich are tricky, and money speaks louder than words, challenging Owen to use all his skills to stop the Camel of Destruction....
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Michael Pearce grew up in the (then) Anglo-Egyptian Sudan among the political and other tensions he draws on for his books. He returned there later to teach and retains a human rights interest in the area. His career has followed the standard academic rake's progress from teaching to writing to administration. He finds international politics a pallid imitation of academic ones.From Publishers Weekly:
British author Pearce (The Snake-catcher's Daughter) offers the seventh fascinating installment in his series featuring Capt. Gareth Owen, the Mamur Zapt, who serves as head of the political branch of the British police in 1910 colonial Egypt. Having jurisdiction over crimes that may have political ramifications, Owen becomes enmeshed in a homicide investigation when a Ministry of Agriculture employee is found dead at his desk. Both government officials and private businessmen want Owen to sweep the matter under the carpet. A dramatic drop in cotton prices that jeopardizes the economy and the growing debts of the poor create a volatile environment that threatens the stability of both the Egyptian ruler, the khedive, and his British "advisers." Utilizing a network of informers and undercover operatives to untangle the victim's financial and real estate dealings, Owen must head off the feared "Camel of Destruction," a metaphorical beast who heralds chaos. Owen is confident enough to bend rules when necessary, as well as adept at assessing the underlying motivations of bureaucrats and the mysterious members of the Khedivial Agricultural Society. Able to think several steps ahead, he's at ease in dealing with all segments of the culture he both rules over and serves. Pearce vividly captures a little-known time and place with three-dimensional characters, financial turmoil that is surprisingly resonant and an intriguing puzzle that is not, alas, matched by an equally clever resolution.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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