3 April 2014

Review: THE GHOST RUNNER, Parker Bilal

  • published 2014
  • ISBN 9-781408-841112
  • #3 in the Makana series
  • 413 pages
  • from my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

It is 2002 and as tanks roll into the West Bank and the reverberations of 9/11 echo across the globe, tensions are running high on Cairo's streets.

Private Investigator Makana, in exile from his native Sudan and increasingly haunted by memories of his wife and daughter, is shaken out of his despondency when a routine surveillance job leads him to the horrific murder of a teenage girl. In a country where honor killings are commonplace and the authorities seem all too eager to turn a blind eye, Makana determines to track down the perpetrator. He finds unexpected assistance in the shape of Zahra, a woman who seems to share Makana's hunger for justice.

Seeking answers in the dead girl's past he travels to Siwa, an oasis town on the edge of the great Sahara Desert, where the law seems disturbingly far away and old grievances simmer just below the surface. As violence follows him through the twisting, sandblown streets and an old enemy lurks in the shadows, Makana discovers that the truth can be as deadly and as changeable as the desert beneath his feet.

My take

This really is one of those books that takes the Western reader into a very different world.

Makana is at first engaged to track a lawyer whose wife says she thinks he is having an affair.  The lawyer in turn hires Makana to find out the truth about the death of a young woman in a house fire. The investigation takes him out of Cairo to the desert and he finds himself assisting local police in solving the horrific murders of two local men, one the local Qadi who was trying to make money from selling land that he didn't own, and the other a simpleton who thought he saw a ghost.

Predictably, it is all quite a tangled story, but one that has its roots in the past. In the end I thought the plot became just a little too tangled for the author, and I didn't think the final resolution was all that satisfying, although probably realistic.

My rating : 4.4

About the author
Parker Bilal is the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub. Mahjoub has published seven critically acclaimed literary novels, which have been widely translated. Born in London, he has lived at various times in the UK, Sudan, Cairo and Denmark. He currently lives in Barcelona.

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