cover image Mamur Zapt and the Return of the Carpet,

Mamur Zapt and the Return of the Carpet,

Michael Pearce, Author Doubleday Books $14.95 (183p) ISBN 978-0-385-41520-0

Set in 1908 Cairo, this colorful mystery debut vividly portrays life in the polyglot, multicultural city ostensibly ruled by a nearly bankrupt Khedive but actually governed by the British. Captain Gareth Owen, the Mamur Zapt (head of the secret police), investigates the attempted murder of prominent politician and philanderer Nuri Pasha. Ostensibly the target of revenge by an enraged relative of his newest conquest, the attack on Pasha takes on different dimensions when the weapon turns out to have been stolen from the British Army. A case of grenades also is missing, leading Owen to fear that a terrorist organization is planning something special for a forthcoming religious ceremony marking the return of the Holy Carpet from Mecca. As Owen begins a complex friendship with the Egyptian civilian investigator, Mahmoud el Zaki, the two explore the higher and lower reaches of the city, eventually uncovering a plot to assassinate a top British official. His work highly praised in England, Pearce depicts the intricate politics and social mores among the various Egyptian societies and factions to provide authentic background for an outstandingly well-wrought and satisfying mystery. (Nov.)