The Last Cut
Water has always been pivotal to Egypt. It remains so in the post-WWI British-ruled Egypt where this story is set. Systems of irrigation are changing, and this is the last year of the traditional flooding of the land. When there is an attempted sabotage at the new canal site and the body of a young girl is found, social tensions rise. Gareth Owen, the Mamur Zapt – head of the political branch – gets involved in the search for the culprit.
This is a perfect set-up for the author to describe the tensions between races and religions (Egyptians, British, Arabs, Jews, Copts), city and country, tradition and modernism, rationalism and superstitions, which he does non-judgmentally – even with touchy topics like female circumcision. The setting and characters are colorful, the plot is well-balanced and unfolds slowly like the rhythm of life in Egypt. Sometimes Pearce tends to become too technical, but this is a very minor point that shouldn’t prevent anyone from getting acquainted with this series set in a time and place seldom depicted in fiction.