Baghdad Central

Elliott Colla. Bitter Lemon (Consortium, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (310p) ISBN 978-1-908524-25-6
Colla’s intriguing first novel works better as a portrait of Baghdad under American occupation than as a mystery. In November 2003, Insp. Muhsin Khadr al-Khafaji, an unemployed Iraqi cop, agrees to look for his brother-in-law’s grown daughter, Sawsan, after she fails to return from work one day. Muhsin’s search for Sawsan doesn’t get very far before he’s arrested and imprisoned in Abu Ghraib, in a clear case of mistaken identity. The Coalition Provisional Authority releases Muhsin on condition that he take on the task of rebuilding the Iraqi police service and investigate the disappearance of Army translators. As part of the deal, Muhsin’s ailing daughter, Mrouj, will receive hospital care. Like many Iraqis, Muhsin sees the world through poetry, despite all he endured under Saddam’s paranoid reign and the hardships brought about by international sanctions. A sketchy resolution to the various plot lines may disappoint some, but Colla writes of a beleaguered secular Arab culture with deep empathy. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/02/2013
Release date: 02/01/2014
Ebook - 324 pages - 978-1-908524-26-3
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