While riding home to lunch on his donkey, Fairclough of Customs is rudely unseated by shots fired from behind. The incident is but the first of a series of attacks seemingly aimed at public officials. Even Captain Gareth Owen, the Mamur Zapt, British head of Cairo's Secret Police, barely escapes. Is a sinister campaign to undermine foreign rule under way? And who are "the men behind"? True, the Nationalist movement is rising after thirty years of the British Protectorate, and the new Liberal Government in London is more sympathetic than the heavy-handed Conservatives to local rule. But can Owen discount more mundane agendas? Under orders to act quickly, Owen delves into both maneuverings at the Khedive's court and the goals of a commercial delegation. His investigations not only carry him in to the city's student quarter but out into the countryside and onto a rural estate. Along the way he juggles a Pasha whose political star is fading, a bomb-wielding Berber, and the knife-happy gypsy Soraya who seriously annoys Owen's main squeeze, the fiery and lovely Zeinab, herself the daughter of a pasha. Which of these explosive mixes is most likely to prove injurious to the Mamur Zapt as well as to the government he serves?
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by Michael Pearce
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