Edition: William Collins, 1991
Review number: 640
Having given up waiting for the first of the Mamur Zapt novels to become available from my local library, I borrowed the third (though it's hard to tell from the unhelpful way Collins have chosen to list them at the front of the novels). I had some idea what to expect, and I was not disappointed. Perhaps a trifle less outrageous than the Dimitri novels I had previously read, The Mamur Zapt and Men Behind is still enjoyable and funny.
Set in Egypt in the early years of this century, the novels capitalise on the tension between the stabilising power of the British who ruled in all but name and the desire of the nationalists to free the country from foreign influence. The Mamur Zapt was the title of the official who ran the secret police in Cairo, and at this time was British though employed by the Egyptian government. In this particular novel, the tension is heightened during a period when the Khedive (ruler of Egypt) refuses to name a new first minister, paralysing the government. Both British and Egyptian officials are being followed and attacked as the crisis continues, and a grave situation becomes very serious when a bomb wrecks a cafe which is a haunt of student political societies.
As a detective puzzle, The Men Behind is easy to solve; Pearce is more interested in being entertaining and amusing than in providing serious intellectual relaxation.