Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Mamur Zapt and the Girl in the Nile, or details, details!

Sure, there's a killing in this fifth book in Michael Pearce's Mamur Zapt series. Not only that, there's an arms-smuggling ring, and the two connect in macabre fashion.

But I still like the details best, mostly of late-colonial politics, as interests play off one another, and the mystery of the dead woman (she fell off a prince's boat, no less!) bumps up against a looming Anglo-Egyptian diplomatic agreement.

And not just political details. Pearce has a sharp ear for the nerve-racking pitch of a lover's quarrel, for example, and an eye for the increasing prevalence of image over substance:

"`Have you noticed,' said the Prince, `that their business has changed? They used to sell beads and hippopotamus-hide whips and boa constrictors. Now they sell themselves to be photographed.'"
As for politics, how about this:

"The Khedive's an Absolute Ruler, well, relatively Absolute, and can conduct Agreements on his own, provided we say so."
or this wry observation about the origins of Egypt's French-style Parquet, or prosecution service:

"`New?' said Owen. The Parquet had existed, he thought, since at least 1883 when a reforming Minister of Justice had unearthed in his office some Arabic translations of parts of the French Code Napoléon and promulgated them as the new Egyptian legal system."
And for humor, this, from a bon-vivant heir to Egypt's nominal throne who nonetheless considers himself a progressive thinker, and is thus surprised when he finds himself a target of angry nationalists:

"`I'm all for reform myself,' said Narouz, `but does one have to be quite so drastic?'"
© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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Blogger Linkmeister said...

""`I'm all for reform myself,' said Narouz, `but does one have to be quite so drastic?'"

As long as he wasn't strapped into a tumbril at the time.

March 26, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The character makes the remark in circumstances more relaxed than a tumbril would suggest, yes.

March 26, 2008  

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