Sunday 6 September 2015

The Desert Fox

The first thing which intrigued me when I received the book – The Ghost Runner (Bloomsbury 2014, Rs.299) was the name of the author –Parker Bilal. Turns out that the name is the pseudonym of England born, Barcelona based writer, Jamal Mahjoub. The name Parker Bilal is a homage to his grandmother, who fed him thrillers when he was a child growing up in Khartoum, Sudan. His parents later moved to Cairo and it is a city the author knows well and it shows in the novel. The protagonist, Cairo based, private detective Makana, who is battling his past of escaping from Sudan and losing his wife and daughter is called upon by a lawyer to investigate the death of a young girl, Karima who has been burnt alive in downtown Cairo. The investigation takes Makana from Cairo to Siwa a small town deep into the desert in Egypt. This is the place from where Karima’s parents –Nagat (who raised Kaima in Cairo) and Musab (who was later exiled to Denmark) grew up before moving to Cairo.
 Siwa appears to be a typical laid back small town. The peace is however soon shattered by the mysterious death of the Qadi (town judge) and the police chief Hamama, with an eye on his promotion, asks Makana to help him in the investigation. Soon, another murder follows. And then another. Could these murders and Makana’s search for Karima’s killer be connected? Has the police chief been entirely honest with Makana?  What is the secret of the beautiful women’s rights’ worker Zahra Sharif whom Makana met in Cairo and is in constant touch with? What is behind Musab’s sudden return from Denmark? In order to unravel the maze, Makana has to deal with a bunch of quirky characters in Siwa. From Dr Medina, the town doctor with bare minimum facilities and  who needs a drink to be sober (and also has secrets of his own) to Wad Nubawi the evasive superstore owner, to Sadig the aggressive police chief’s assistant who is always suspicious of Makanas’ moves and dying to put him behind bars. Events unfold against the background of Israel-Palestine conflict and the aftermath of 9/11 and these also cast a shadow on the plot besides giving a contemporary edge to the story. This a very intelligently written crime thriller which is sure to keep the readers of this genre glued. It is can easily hold against the best of Nordic crime fiction which has come to dominate this genre nowadays.  This novel is the third in the Makana series by the author and even as I write this a fourth novel (also based in Egypt) is already out in the market. Can’t wait to get my hands on the same.

No comments:

Post a Comment