First met in The Mamur Zapt and the Return of the Carpet , Captain Gareth Owen is a colonial police officer in British-controlled Cairo. As Mamur Zapt, his job is to keep the uneasy peace between the Coptic and Muslim factions of the city. One night a dead dog is left at a Coptic gravesite. Smarting over the insult, the Copts retaliate and a Zikr , a Muslim dancer, is murdered during a dervish-style ceremony. These incidents land smack on Owen's plate, and lead to increasing violence in the city. That Jane Posthelthwaite, the attractive niece of an influential British politician, was witness to the murder--and, worse yet, in Owen's less-than-protective company--makes for lots of pressure on Owen to find the guilty parties and calm the city down. In a slyly witty and altogether logical manner, Pearce's self-effacing sleuth discovers (through bribes, conversations, stakeouts and deduction) that the strife is due to high-level government sneakiness and abuse of power. Each scene is sharply rendered with local color, and Pearce explains often complex social and political behavior through believable dialogue. (May)
The desecration of a Coptic tomb and the stabbing death of a Muslim dervish--two politically sensitive events that could easily cause destructive rioting between age-old rival sects--test the abilities of Cairo's British Mamur Zapt, otherwise known as Captain Owen. Utilizing his intelligence network and judicious bribes, and paying diplomatic obeisance to Egyptian rulers, the British Consul-General, and regular police, Owen homes in on the party instigating the unrest. Exotically claustrophobic streets, appropriate roundabout rhetoric, and hidden plot convolutions characterize the author's second title ( The Mamur Zapt and the Return of the Carpet , Doubleday, 1990). Moderately absorbing, but not essential.