The Point in the Market

Written by Michael Pearce
Review by Steve Lewis

This 15th in a series of adventures of Captain Owen, the Mamur Zapt, the British head of the Sultan’s Secret Police in pre-World War I Egypt, is the first for me, and that’s my error. Your error, too, if you’ve missed them as well, and you have a fondness for historical mysteries with a flair for the foreign and exotic.

Until the war activities began, the British control was veiled, under the pretense of being advisors to the government. Now that an attack from Turkey seems imminent, the veil is off. Owen’s case centers around the body found in the Camel Market, soon learned to be that of an Egyptian who was an agent for Owen.

He has other problems. Some Egyptians are beginning to chafe under the more overt British rule. Owen’s new wife, Egyptian, has begun to find herself cut off from both worlds. Not only that, he finds he must deal with a phenomenon totally new to Egypt, a burgeoning feminist movement for which the male population of the country is totally unprepared.

Pearce’s quiet humor and insight go a long way in disguising the fact that there’s no solid center to the story. But the sights and sounds of a country seemingly on the verge of greatness again are vividly depicted, making this book a delight to read, along with the people in it. The world they live in is changing, and they are often perplexed by it. Amusing to us, perhaps, but of the utmost significance to them.