Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mystery Book Review: The Mark of the Pasha by Michael Pearce

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of The Mark of the Pasha by Michael Pearce. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Mark of the Pasha by Michael PearceBuy from Amazon.com

The Mark of the Pasha by
A Mamur Zapt Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-444-9 (1590584449)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-444-6 (9781590584446)
Publication Date: May 2008
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): The Great War has ended, and the army is keen to be demobbed. Willoughby, the British High Commissioner in Egypt, hasn’t been long in his job. The Khedive is affronted when Britain refuses to receive rival delegations fueled by rising nationalism. A state of emergency has been declared. Some Armenians and Copts have been attacked. So have some English Civil Servants.

Gareth Cadwallader Owen is the Mamur Zapt, the Head of the Khedive’s Secret Police. Unlike his British colleagues, Owen works for the Khedive. It’s not a comfortable perch as agitation for political and social restructuring grows. Furthermore, Owen is married to a pasha’s daughter, Zeinab, herself straddling a cultural divide.

The Khedive has declared a procession. He’s going to drive around Cairo with his Ministers. Owen, who has spent his career defusing political time bombs, learns from his agents, some Greek and Egyptian, that the streets have been made dangerous by threats of real bombs. The first order of business is to ward them off. The second is to insure the safety of an impending major European delegation to the capital. What does it all have to do with Owen’s shiny new motor car?

Review: Egypt finds itself in a period of political unrest in 1918 and Gareth Owen, the Mamur Zapt, head of the Egyptian Khedive Secret Police, has his hands full dealing with members of the British High Commission and protecting the Khedive from assassins in The Mark of the Pasha, the 16th mystery in this historical series by Michael Pearce.

The Great War has ended and the Egyptians are anxious to regain control of their country from the British. The Khedive, nominal ruler of Egypt, is planning a procession of motor cars through the city together with other Egyptian royalty in a public display of solidarity. Owen discovers a plot to bomb the motorcade and persuades the Khedive to change his route at the last minute. A bomb is indeed found, fortunately harming no one, but setting Owen on a quest to determine its source. What he finds, however, are the seeds of a religious insurrection. While Owen agrees in principle with their demands, he understands that change, while good for some, would be bad for others unless done so through proper channels. When the leader of the rebellion is found murdered, Owen's position is even more tenuous as he seeks to solve the crime.

Meanwhile, Owen's new wife, the only daughter of a pasha, a honorific title typically given to important, wealthy, or politically connected (sometimes all three) Egyptians, is trying to live the life of a modern woman who dresses in the style of Europeans and who works as an administrator in a hospital. In a country so heavily tied to tradition, her attempts at change are, not surprisingly, met with resistance.

The Mark of the Pasha is not so much a mystery with a puzzle to be solved as a mystery with a story and characters to be enjoyed. There's a certain intrigue to the setting that is undeniably appealing. The political aspects of the story are, at times, difficult to understand, maybe appreciate is a better word, but they don't interfere with following the basic plot. It is a fine addition to this fascinating series.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of The Mark of the Pasha and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

For more visit Mysterious Reviews, a partner with the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books which is committed to providing readers and collectors of with the best and most current information about their favorite authors, titles, and series.

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