Part mystery, part speculative fiction, and wholly unforgettable, Jon Courtenay Grimwood's celebrated Arabesk series portrays the dark, hard-boiled story of a man out to prove his innocence in an alternate world where the facts aren't always the same as the truth . . . and murder isn't the worst that can happen.It's a twenty-first century hauntingly familiar-and yet startlingly different from our own. Here the United States brokered a deal that ended World War I, and the Ottoman Empire never collapsed. And lording it over all sits the complex, seductive, and bloodthirsty North African metropolis of El Iskandryia. Almost nothing is what it seems to be in El Isk, and Ashraf Bey is no exception.
In this clever first book of a trilogy that blends alternative SF and hard-boiled mystery from British author Grimwood (Lucifer's Dragon, etc.), ZeeZee, who has spent his youth largely in boarding schools and in trouble, is also Ashraf al-Mansur, though that identity is unknown to him. Whisked away from a Seattle prison, ZeeZee is transported to El Iskandryia, an exotic, exquisitely detailed North African city. Whether Ashraf or ZeeZee, he's adaptable but not compliant. The world of wealth and privilege he's expected to accept without question comes with strings he's not to question either, like marriage to the willful Zara. Misunderstanding and mishandling his precarious situation, Ashraf becomes prime suspect in a murder, on the lam with only a vague understanding of where he is and who he is supposed to be. He's not only responsible for his own fate but also, surprisingly, the sole protector of a young girl. Grimwood artfully unveils the changed world that has developed in the many decades since WWI ended differently. Ashraf, a lifelong underdog and pawn, emerges as a resourceful and deadly foe, adapting quickly to survive in a game where the rules and the playing field shift repeatedly. SF and mystery fans will be pleased. Agent, Mic Cheetham. (Mar. 8) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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February 28, 2005
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Excerpt from Pashazade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
The sound of fountains came in stereo. A deep splash from the courtyard below and a lighter trickle from the next room, where open arches cut in a wall overlooking the courtyard had marble balustrades stretched between matching pillars.
It was that kind of house.
Old, historic, near-derelict in places.
"Ambient temp eighty-one Fahrenheit, humidity sixty-two per cent . . ." The American spoke clearly, reading the data from the face of his watch, then glanced through a smashed window to what little he could see of the sky outside.
"Passing cloud, no direct sunlight."
Dropping clumsily onto one knee, Felix Abrinsky touched the marble floor with nicotine-stained fingers, confirming to himself that this statement was correct. The tiles were warm but not hot. No latent heat had been stored up from that morning's sunshine to radiate back into the afternoon air.
Bizarrely, it took Felix less effort to stand than it had done to kneel, though he needed to pause to catch his breath all the same. And the silver-ringed hand that came up to wipe sweat from his forehead only succeeded in smearing grease across his scalp and down his thinning ponytail.
Police regulations demanded he wear a face mask, surgical gloves and--in his case--a sweatband to stop himself from accidentally polluting biological evidence. But Felix was Chief of Detectives and so far as he was concerned that meant he could approach the crime scene how he liked, which was loose, casual and lateral. Not to mention semi-drunk. All the virtues that first got him thrown out of the police in Los Angeles.
Besides, if you wanted to talk about should have been, then he should have been on holiday. And he would have managed it, too, if this particular buck hadn't been bumped up the line so fast it practically hit the wall parking itself right outside his office door.
The body in the chair was fresh, still warm to his touch. Stiffness had set in to the arms--but then, rigor happened fast when a victim was borderline anorexic. And even without the woman's thinness there was North Africa's heat to add into the equation. Heat always upped the rate at which rigor gripped a corpse.
On his arrival Felix had considered obtaining an immediate body temperature. But habit made him do the crime-scene grabs first, then work a grid through the victim's office, tweezering up clues. And technically, since she was obviously dead, he'd already broken his own regulations by checking under her jaw for a carotid pulse.
"Covering the body prior to site shots."