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Jon Courtenay-Grimwood – EffendiPlease note that Effendi is the 2nd book in Jon Courtenay-Grimwood's rather splendid Arabesk series; and what's below contains, inevitably, spoilers for the 1st book (Pashazade), which I can strongly recommend (the book, not the spoilers!), so if spoilers bother you go read that one first, then come back.

This book is like a Prodigy/Natasha Atlas mash-up; and I'm sure DJ Avatar could easily produce this, with his own slant of North-African dance music mixed in, of course...

It picks up directly where Pashazade left off – Ashraf 'Raf' Bey is now Chief of Detectives, and, as General Koenig Pasha resigns surprisingly, is also appointed as Governor of El Iskandryia by Khedive Mohammed Tewfik Pasha.
The Khedive, more or less directly after this, goes on his annual holiday on board of a luxury cruiser, and invites Zara along, with the explicit (if unspoken) expectation that he will propose to her to marry him. She sends her half brother Kamil, aka DJ Avatar, in her place though.
And meanwhile her father, Hamzah Quitrimala Effendi, self-made industrialist and mob boss, is accused of War Crimes? Genocide? Mass murder? - the details, as well as where he should be tried and by whom, change depending on which superpower you talk to. But the Detective, Magister, and Governor in charge is Raf, who recently turned down the offer to marry Zara, Hamzah's daughter...

Is that enough of a set-up? It's decidedly bigger and more ambitious than the first book in the series. And, in parallel to all this, there is another thread, told in italics, of a Lieutenant 'Ka', a child soldier himself, and his troop of assorted child soldiers, engaged in some unspecified war in Sudan. It is not immediately obvious how these strands are connected.

The story is told in a highly non-linear fashion. Besides the multiple, unconnected strands we also get flashbacks to things which happened in the first book (usually from the perspective of another participant than the one which was followed originally, which is very interesting), flash-forwards; and the normal parallel running threads of the various protagonists in the current story arc.
All this can be disorienting, but comes together beautifully – it's all part of the game that is being played in the story, and, of course, part of the game the author plays with the reader.

Given that Raf is Chief of Detectives this is decidedly a detective story, with some secret service manipulations (Thiergarten!) and international conspiracies thrown in for good measure.

Whilst this is written in a different style from the first book it is just as well executed, and comes, yet again, highly recommended.

Title: Effendi
Series: Arabesk
Series Number: 2
Author: Jon Courtenay-Grimwood
Reviewer: Markus
Reviewer URL: http://skating.thierstein.net
Publisher:  Gollancz/Orion
Publisher URL: http://www.orionbooks.co.uk
Publication Date: 2005 original, 2008 republication
Review Date: 090829
ISBN: 9780575083691
Price: UKP 7.99
Pages: 412
Format: Paperback
Topic: SF
Topic: Alternative History


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