cover image The Mamur Zapt and the Girl in the Nile

The Mamur Zapt and the Girl in the Nile

Michael Pearce, Author Mysterious Press $19.95 (234p) ISBN 978-0-89296-509-0

The fifth case (after The Mamur Zapt and the Men Behind) for Captain Garth Owen, head of the British police force in Cairo in the first decade of the 20th century, is less exciting than its volatile setting suggests. Investigating the death of a woman who falls from the pleasure boat of Prince Narouz, Owen, as Mamur Zapt, follows a trail through a thicket of foreign customs, language and touchy royalty. The woman's body is sighted in the water, then it disappears. Lazy officials are suspected of moving it out of their jurisdiction, but it's the royalty who raise the thorniest dilemmas. Owen is given mixed signals from his superiors, who want the case solved and the royals soothed, all at the same time. Less ambiguous in her wishes is Zeinab, Owen's Egyptian lover, who feels considerable sympathy with the free-spirited, unorthodox dead woman and wants her body found. Pearce delights in political and social detail, but he squanders the romantic suspense inherent in both his setting and the conflicts among his cast of characters. The repetitious uncertainties of stuffy British colonials are no substitute for real mystery and adventure. (Dec.)