Judith Cutler is the author of many short stories and some thirty novels. Her most recent is Ring of Guilt (Severn House) the latest in the series featuring antique dealers Griff Tripp and Lina Townend. Check out the other novels on www.judithcutler.com
2001 Cairo: home to the world, and in particular to Makana, an ex-policeman who had to flee Sudan, his homeland, leaving a dead wife and child behind him. Now like so many others in this genre he scrapes a living as a private investigator. But he never, ever becomes a stereotype, for all his chain-smoking and his angst.
Summoned to investigate what appears to be a threat to a seedy travel agent, Makana soon uncovers a great deal more than a poison-pen writer. Meera, a newcomer to the firm and clearly a woman of a different calibre from her disenchanted idle colleagues, is willing to talk to him. Like Makana, she and her husband are outcasts. In her case it is because she is a Christian: Islamists objected to her husband, a university academic, having married out of his faith and had him sacked from his university post.
Before Meera can reveal all she knows, however, she is shot before Makana’s eyes: the investigation becomes personal. There are many who would prefer him not to get involved – from the state security services to a brutal gangster family. But he persists, and his search for the truth takes him up the Nile to Luxor, and to an abandoned desert monastery. Then, after scenes of degradation that evoke Dickens, there is a truly satisfying resolution, even if some readers might find the last chapter a little self-conscious in its allusions to a real historical event.
Bilal is a master of words. He conjures the both the underbelly of Cairo and the extreme wealth of the corrupt with deft, memorable phrases which might linger in the reader’s memory but never slow down the action. He has a breadth of vision that encompasses not simply the crime before him but all the religious and political nuances that permit and indeed encourage it.
Dogstar Rising is an absolute gem of a book. Read it.