cover image The Bride Box

The Bride Box

Michael Pearce. Severn, $28.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8303-2

Set in 1913, Pearce’s 17th Mamur Zapt mystery (after 2008’s The Mark of the Pasha) showcases the author’s gift for combining humor with a whodunit puzzle. Gareth Owen, the Mamur Zapt, or head of the secret police for the Khedive (the Egyptian government under British rule), looks into the case of a little girl, Leila, found injured underneath a railway carriage in Cairo. Owen takes Leila into his household, since no one comes forward to claim the girl. Meanwhile, a rotten corpse turns up in a box meant to hold a bride’s trousseau shipped from Luxor to Cairo. The victim turns out to be Soraya, Leila’s older sister, and Owen comes to believe that Soraya’s death may be related to a resurgent slave trade. Pearce manages to keep the long-running series fresh with logical developments in his lead’s personal life, while capturing the tensions of the time, nicely exemplified in Owen’s working relationship with an Egyptian colleague. (Sept.)