cover image City of the Sun

City of the Sun

Juliana Maio. Greenleaf, $24.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-62634-051-0

Heliopolis, known in ancient Egypt as the City of the Sun, but now a Cairo suburb, provides the vivid setting for Maio’s debut, a romantic thriller set during the early years of WWII. Gen. Erwin Rommel’s forces threaten Egypt from without, while the growing Muslim Brotherhood threatens the strife-torn country from within. A vacillating young King Farouk and a domineering British presence combine to govern uneasily. Into this roiling mix come American freelance reporter Mickey Connolly and Jewish refugee Maya Levi, who continually cross paths. American ambassador Alexander Kirk and spymaster Bill “Wild Bill” Donovan recruit Connolly to help them locate German refugee physicist Erik Blumenthal, who may be trying to get to Palestine. German spy Heinrich Kesner also seeks Blumenthal. The many historical figures lend authenticity, but it is Connolly and Levi’s romantic entanglement that drives this satisfying exploration of a key time in western and Middle Eastern relations. (Mar.)