Monday, June 1, 2015

The Burning Gates (Makana #4) by Parker Bilal

London-born, Spain-based Parker Bilal is on my short list of great thriller writers writing today. His Makana Mystery series features a private investigator originally from the Sudan and now working in Cairo. Bilal gives us all kinds of atmosphere, politically-relevant motive, morally-complex characters, and a beating heart. His writing is blessedly free from idiom and extraneous storylines—the exotic setting and complexity of his main character’s life is enough to keep us off balance and searching for familiar ground.

In this installment, U.S. government contractors have gone off the reservation in Iraq to pursue a former high-ranking military official from the old Iraq regime who appears to be profiting from his theft of Kuwaiti ‘war spoils’ which was the impetus for U.S. involvement in the First Gulf War. It is now 2004, and the Egyptian political scene is chaotic while private investigator Makana wends his way between bribe-takers, informants, and status-seekers, seeking justice.

We get a street view of Cairo’s neighborhoods as Makana does his rounds, and have the opportunity to see how Cairenes operate day-to-day. Best of all are characterizations of some of the less wealthy inhabitants of the city: we see where they live, how they live, what they think, and how they eat. Cairo has always been a cosmopolitan place. Its location in the heart of the Middle East give it a unique perspective, and the central character in this series, Makana, allows us to look at the region with an even further remove.

Parker Bilal is the pen name of Jamal Mahjoub, who publishes award-winning literary novels under his own name.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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