Saturday, 17th March 2018
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Author PARKER BILAL : Published by ABACUS : Price e16.99

by Marco Vichi Translated by Stephen Sartarelli Published by Hodder & Stoughton Price €25

Makana is a Sudanese man living in exile in Cairo. Although he has spent so many years in Egypt he finds that most of his time is spent thinking about the life that he had to leave behind him in Sudan, particularly his family, wife Nura and daughter Nasra, both of whom he believes, but is not sure, are dead. He works as a private detective in Cairo and has made some close friends there but one day when he is approached by an Englishman asking him to go to Turkey he doesn't know whether he can fully trust him. Although the man doesn't come right out and say it it is clear that he is from MI6 and working undercover.

He says that there is an important asset in Istanbul who says will only come over to their side if Makana comes and meets him there.

Although the two of them have never met somehow this man has heard a lot about Makana and believes him to be trustworthy. So far there is little in the deal to interest Makana. But then the Englishman pulls out the ace card saying that the man has information about Makana's daughter. The reader already knows that the daughter is alive and living in Sudan but isn't clear about how she will feature further in the novel, if at all. With this new piece of information Makana can't but go to Istanbul even though he can't tell any of his friends the real reasons why he is going. He isn't going on a passport in his own name and has a legend made up for the reason why he is in Istanbul.

Although these Makana novels are usually crime stories set in Egypt this is one of the first outside of the country and while definitely it has some criminal elements to it it is mainly a spy story with all of the bluff and double crossing that that usually involves. In fact there is so much double crossing that you never really feel at ease in the novel at all. The guy that Makana is there to meet and help get out of Istanbul is a former Iraqi scientist who is an expert on nerve agents with thousands of deaths on his conscience. He is a person of interest to nearly every intelligence agency in the area but it is the Israeli's who are particularly interested in the guy at the moment and it is them that Makana has to try and dodge at nearly every turn.

Needless to say that the death count rakes up and soon the local police are after Makana as well. There is also a sub plot about a serial killer who is at work in Istanbul as well that Makana gets involved with unwittingly. The main thing is that no one really ever gets what they want. Even though Makana meets up with his daughter it doesn't end well with her getting shot and the entire building getting blown up. But they both survive or at least Makana thinks that she does. This is a strange unsettling novel with a brilliant sense of place and with enough complications to keep the reader on edge throughout.


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