Having written myself out with a review of the prior outing in the Dead Djinn Universe, I will quickly recap: this book is not the peer to The Daevabad Trilogy that I thought it would be. It’s Muslim Miss Marple solving capers in Cairo that happens to be inhabited by djinn and where magic is commonplace.
Caveat I’ve actually never read Miss Marple, I was clearly just going for the alliteration.
Will continue with a conceit that’s worked for me: things I didn’t like. Almost any time that Clark used a short exclamatory sentence, either in Fatma’s third person monologue or when said by a character, it rang false. It’s a phrasing style he utilizes somewhat often, but either the nature of them or the brevity or the directness would pull me out of the action. I think that the book was a bit overlong–it dragged in the middle before picking up steam towards the back half. As the book is meant to serve as a classic whodunit with magic, you can appreciate the artistry of a master whodunner since even I could tell that there were a few red herrings and convenient nerfings for the sake of plot ([was it not IMMEDIATELY obvious that the imposter was able to control djinn and that the librarian wasn’t a random traitor? was it not clear from like, day 2 that it wasn’t going to be Alexander and was probably the lady with the broken hand which was remarked upon every time she entered?]).
With A Dead Djinn in Cairo I talked about how Clark’s work, while not meant as an ambassador for literature featuring practicing Muslims and the Arabic world, nevertheless served as one. I’ll double down on that contention here, even if it does become a bit more heavy handed with the introduction of Hadia the Hijabi Who Will Force You to Challenge Your Assumptions About Muslim Women. Between Fatma and Hadia you have the entire spectrum of believers, and their individual and joint interactions with Siti (and other “idolators,” or followers of the old Egyptian gods) are delightful in their natural exploration of what it means to have faith and be practicing in a “modern” world.
While I’m all about long arcs, I can very much appreciate a novel like this one which ties up the major loose ends and leave the next story waiting in the wings of the world that we have yet to explore. While you would have been lost without reading the earlier novellas, Clark did his part in reminding you of salient details in case it had been a while and you weren’t in the middle of a sprint through all the works. I’ll definitely be picking up all of these as they come out.