Saturday, 30 June 2001

Michael Pearce: The Mamur Zapt and the Camel of Destruction (1993)

Edition: Collins, 1993 (Buy from Amazon)
Review number: 853

The camel of destruction is apparently a figure from Arab legend, which has an aptly descriptive name. In this novel, more serious in tone than most of the Mamur Zapt stories, a plan to build new roads right through ancient parts of the city of Cairo is likened to the camel.

The case which Owen, as Mamur Zapt in charge of order in the city of Cairo in the early part of the twentieth century, investigates is the suicide of a civil servant, trying to find out what put him under so much pressure that he killed himself and who paid for the improvements recently carried out on his family house. It seems to be connected with the murky and complicated world of Egyptian finance, including schemes to attract foreign investment (and make vast amounts of money on the side) like the road.

It is the complex political machinations which take up the space generally occupied by humour in this series, but that doesn't stop The Camel of Destruction being an entertaining detective story with an atmospheric historical background.

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