Sunday, November 03, 2019

86. The Mamur Zapt and the Spoils of Egypt by Michael Pearce

I've been looking for any of these Mamur Zapt novels for a long time and finally stumbled upon this one at Re-Reader on the Darlington in Toronto.  I am hoping this is not one of the better ones.  The writing is solid, British, slightly wry and on the sparse side.  The setting is really cool, British-controlled Egypt before WWI, a really nice period for intrigue but usually neglected in colonial genre literature.  The Mamur Zapt is the head of the Egyptian Secret Police and Captain Gareth Owen, who holds the post and is the antagonist of these stories and stands out among his fellow Brits in roles of responsibility because he is definitely not an old boy.  It all sets up really well and I will keep looking for them.

Unfortunately, the actual story in this one didn't really grab me. There was no central mystery and I found I couldn't connect to the storyline.  It centers around the market of archeological goods leaving Egypt (which was also quite interesting to read about in a fictional context).  A feisty American do-gooder, who has quite a lot of sway because her uncle may become the next American president, is visiting Egypt and wants to ensure that the archeological heritage of Egypt (and to her mind, the world) is not plundered.  She suffers two suspicious accidents.  Captain Owen, though skeptical, must investigate.  He also starts to feel political pressure around the market for artifacts and this further motivates him.

It all kind of meanders, none of it boring, but overall lacking purpose, so when a plot is finally revealed, it just didn't seem all that important.  I hope to find one of the earlier ones to give this series another chance.

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