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A Cold Touch of Ice: A Mamur Zapt Mystery    by Michael Pearce order for
Cold Touch of Ice
by Michael Pearce
Order:  USA  Can
Poisoned Pen, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio
* * *   Reviewed by Nina de Angeli

In this 13th in the Mamur Zapt series, smuggled guns turn up hidden in bales of cotton in the warehouse of a murdered Italian merchant in Cairo, shipped by camel caravan from Assuan. In 1912 British Egypt, tensions among the resident tangled nationalities boil under the surface.

Gareth Owen, the 'Mamur Zapt', head of the secret police who investigate political crimes, has deep roots in Egyptian culture but is a servant of the British Empire as well as of the nominal Egyptian government. He scoffs at official fears of Turkish invasion spilling over from their war with Italy. Yet the guns do worry him. Death threats come to the resident Italian merchant community and to British government officials deeply resented by Egyptian nationalists.

In the midst of all theses interwoven plot threads, the reader is challenged to follow the trail of the murder investigation. Was it a political assassination? A personal vendetta? A gang slaying? I especially enjoyed the character of Amina, the ice seller's young girl assistant. In the heat of the summer, everyone wants ice, so the seller goes everywhere and sees everything. What secrets does she keep?

Owen's ironic outsider viewpoint lends a wry humorous touch to this tale of power, politics, and growing Egyptian nationalism in the always volatile Middle East. Lush details of everyday street life in Cairo lend depth and color to the story.

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