cover image The Mouth of the Crocodile

The Mouth of the Crocodile

Michael Pearce. Severn, $28.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8463-3

Pearce’s 18th mystery set in early 20th-century Egypt (after 2013’s The Bride Box) is his best yet, replete with his dry sense of humor. Gareth Owen, the head of the Khedive’s Secret Police, agrees to protect a royal pasha carrying some sensitive documents after the pasha is attacked on the train he’s riding to Khartoum. The assault is followed by the suspicious death of a member of the pasha’s entourage, who drowns in the Nile. Owen accompanies the pasha, who may not be exactly what he purports to be, on his return train trip to Egypt, but the travelers are stymied by a severe sandstorm that strands them in the middle of nowhere. The investigator is aided by two unlikely, but engaging, younger assistants: Jamie Nicholson, a railway official’s son, and Aisha al-Jawad, a government lawyer’s feisty daughter. This variation on the snowbound train full of suspicious characters is nicely done, and Pearce is adept at subtly injecting the English-Egyptian tensions of the time. (Mar.)