The Golden Scales Synopsis
A lost child. A missing hero. A bitter rivalry.
In Cairo the ghosts of the past are stirring…
Makana is a former police inspector who fled for his life to Cairo from his native Sudan seven years ago. Down on his luck and haunted by the past, he lives on a rickety Nile houseboat. When the notorious and powerful Saad Hanafi hires him to track down a missing person Makana is in no position to refuse him.
Hanafi, whose past is as shady as his fortune is glittering, is the owner of Cairo’s star-studded football team. His most valuable player has just vanished and Adil Romario’s disappearance threatens to bring down not only Hanafi’s private empire but the entire country. But why should the city’s most powerful man hire its lowliest private detective?
Thrust into a dangerous and glittering world, Makana’s investigation leads him into the treacherous underbelly of his adopted country – where he encounters Muslim extremists, Russian gangsters and a desperate mother hunting for her missing daughter. It becomes a trail that stirs up painful memories, leading him back into the sights of an old and dangerous enemy… (Amazon)
Parker Bilal’s The Golden Scales is a crime novel with uncommon depth and sense of gravity. The reader is transported to the novel’s unique time and place, Cairo pre-uprising – sights, smells and fear that springs from living on moving sands.
It is easy to see author Parker Bilal (pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub) has come to this, his new mystery crime series, The Makana Mysteries, from a literary background. I found his prose a joy to read – artful, inventive and evocative.
Ahead of him the pyramids emerged from the thick polluted air. Their perfect geometrical symmetry struck a note of clarity that had echoed across the centuries, to collide ultimately with the cacophony of chaos that was present day. By contrast, the buildings lining the road seemed to have been tossed up as an afterthought, assembled like the doodlings of a distracted mind unable to concentrate long enough to draw a straight line. The drooping cables, the lopsided, crushed vehicles limping along amid the whine of sirens and brakes, the gasps of exhaust choking the light out of the air. Against all that madness the pyramids seemed as perfectly suited to this world as spacecraft that had arrived from another galaxy and set themselves down on this scrap of benighted desert. According to the papers, however, even their grasp on eternity was gradually being eroded by the vibrations created by the steady rumble of the nearby road. Little by little they were being shaken to the ground, to join the rising mounds of rubble to which this city was ultimately, inevitably, destined to return.
In The Golden Scales Parker Bilal introduces to the world of crime fighting a lead character with intelligence, scars, and an appealing strength of conviction tinged with sentimentality.
What I found particularly compelling about this story was Makana’s keen and observant eye for what motivates both friend and foe, and his dry and philosophical take on the strange circumstances he often found himself in.
‘Open sesame,’ muttered Makana, as the doors slid aside and the long white car slipped into the waiting lift. Without anyone moving a muscle, they began to rise silently through the building. When they came to a halt Makana climbed out and followed the slim man through a door which led straight into a wide living area. The sensation was rather like stepping on to a cloud. Milky-white sheets of marble stretched away in every direction. You could have ridden a camel through the place without needing to lower your head. Two giant glazed ceramic leopards stood guard by the entrance. A reminder that when you had all the money in the world, you didn’t need taste.
In addition to the wonderful prose and colourful characterisation, in The Golden Scales Bilal has crafted a complex and thrilling mystery that kept me guessing.
I wholeheartedly recommend The Golden Scales to lovers of mysteries and literature alike. I look forward to reading more from Parker Bilal, and thankfully we will not have long to wait with the next title in his Makana Mystery Series titled The Dogstar Rising scheduled for publication in February 2013.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5
Genre: Mystery, Crime-Detective, Thriller, Action-Adventure
Author Information: Parker Bilal is the pseudonym of Jamal Mahjoub. Mahjoub has published seven critically acclaimed literary novels, which have been widely translated. Born in London, he has lived at various times in the UK, Sudan, Cairo and Denmark. He currently lives in Barcelona.
* My receiving this book free from publisher Bloomsbury ANZ in no way impacted my ability to express my honest feelings about my reading experience.