cover image The End of Sleep

The End of Sleep

Rowan Somerville, . . Norton, $23.95 (246pp) ISBN 978-0-393-06660-9

Somerville’s atmospheric if rudderless debut spans one action-packed day in the life of a hapless Irish journalist in Cairo, segmented into the five Islamic calls to prayer. Fin wakes up abysmally hungover to the news that he has lost his job for the Cairo Herald after a fight with an American embassy official. In desperation, Fin seeks out his bombastic Egyptian friend, Farouk, who enthralls Fin with a story of a villager named Skinhead Saïd, who suspected a trove of riches was hidden underneath his house, but the basement wall collapsed, destroying his dream. Farouk, then, is kidnapped by a man who believes Farouk was involved in a hit-and-run that left his daughter with a broken leg, and the novel becomes a high-energy chase-and-bribe tour of Cairo as a good-intentioned Fin attempts to rescue Farouk. Throughout, the story of Saïd’s treasure tantalizes Fin and provides a segue to the book’s manic conclusion. The narrative is fast-paced and colorful, and though the action can strain believability (a sequence in a hospital, for instance, is particularly tough to swallow), Somerville’s madcap tour of Cairo’s backstreets is worth the price of admission. (July)