British writer Jon Courtenay Grimwood, author of eight novels, is just beginning to make a splash in the U.S. His reputation will be enhanced by the appearance here of Effendi, a smart, exciting thriller that marks the second entry in his Arabesk series.
Effendi will appeal not only to science fiction and fantasy readers but also to fans of mysteries and police procedurals, as the series takes place in a very recognizable world of police corruption, dirty politics and the clash of Eastern and Western cultures. However, the 21st-century city at the heart of these multifaceted tales isn't a noir favorite such as New York, London or Berlin; it is Iskandryia, the center of the still-extant Ottoman Empire, which rules the world.
Ashraf Bey, a young man with a troubled past, has been dropped into the job of police chief. Bey is an outsider in the city and so is somewhat immune to the web of deceit and polite lies the city's rulers live by. But Bey is drawn into the city by (supposed) family ties: he has to take custody of his computer genius niece, Hani. Soon, the tabloids declare him fair game after he refuses to marry the daughter of one of the city's most powerful industrialists. Add German assassins, a pirate radio station, a summer power failure and the burgeoning fallout from a Children's Crusade in Africa and you begin to get a taste for the addictive world of the Arabesk.
Grimwood keeps readers on their toes by starting with a grand jury proceeding, then cutting back to the days leading up to the trial. The back and forth is superbly handled, and readers willing to be caught up in the intrigue will be well rewarded with this highly original tale of an alternative universe. Gavin J. Grant runs Small Beer Press in Northampton, Massachusetts.