I accidentally read this series out of order. I read The Haunting of Tram Car 015 sometime last year and sort of pieced my way through the rest in the series until I reached A Dead Djinn in Cairo, which is the first book, this spring. It says something about P. Djèlí Clark’s world-building that each story felt standalone and yet very much grounded in a fully realized world.
Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’awari investigates disturbances between the residents of Cairo and the djinn they share their world with. (Thanks, al-Jahiz). It’s 1912 and Fatma is the first female investigator for the Egyptian Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities. The world hasn’t been the same since al-Jahiz punctured the veil shielding humanity from the residents of the Kaz. Cairo attracts all kinds, including Old Ones, Ifrit, ghuls and rogue angels. Fatma must find the links between them all before it’s too late.
Because I had read other stories in the series first, I had an idea of what would happen in this one – it didn’t matter. It is a quick-paced, spare story with no time wasted and yet Clark manages to build a detailed, comprehensive world and a layered, extremely stylish, main character. With a few descriptions, we are immersed in Fatma’s life and investigation. Clark’s Cairo is complex and cool, with steampunk-ish details and some pointed commentary about colonialism and Western-centric ideals. I look forward to revisiting this world in subsequent Dead Djinn stories.