Pashazade (The First Arabesk) - A novel by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Spectra | March 2005 | ISBN: 0553587439 | 384 pages | PDF | 5.5 MB
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 that is hauntingly familiar to —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.
Neither the rich Ottoman aristocrat everyone thinks he is, nor the minor street criminal once shipped off to prison when he fell foul of his Chinese Triad employers–the fact is that Raf has as little idea who he is as anyone else.
With few clues and no money, all Raf has is a surname hinting at noble heritage and an arranged marriage to a woman who hates him. But nothing Ashraf al Mansur learns about himself is as unexpected—or as terrifying—as the brutal murder he’s accused of committing. Now, as a hunted man with the welfare of a precocious young girl in his irresponsible hands, Raf must race after a killer through an unforgiving city as foreign to him as the truth he'll uncover about himself.
From Publishers Weekly
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.
The murder of an imperious North African noblewoman upsets the marriage plans of her nephew, who becomes the prime suspect. After Chief of Detectives Felix Abrinsky is called to an affluent home in Isk (El Iskandriya), Egypt, to examine the body of a recently murdered society matron, the story flashes back to the events that led up to the murder. Young Ashraf Bey ("Raf") is united for the first time with his wealthy aunt, Lady Nafisa, who helped get him out of Huntsville, an American prison, where he went under the name of ZeeZee. (Alter ego or alternate reality? You decide.) Though Raf maintains that he worked as an attache, italicized chapters from ZeeZee's perspective paint a darker existence in Seattle. Indeed, many of the characters have damaging secrets, including Abrinsky, who was fired from the LAPD. Raf is on his way to an arranged marriage to the beautiful and outspoken Zara when Nafisa deems Zara unsuitable for her jailbird nephew. Shortly thereafter, Nafisa is stabbed to death with her own pen. The suspicion cast on Raf is particularly dangerous for him because the higher his profile, the more vulnerable he is to his felonious former associates. Resourceful Raf determines to solve the crime himself. In this first American installment of a trilogy published in England beginning in 2001, Grimwood (reMix, 1999, etc.) wraps gritty realism in layers of suspicion and suggestion (is Isk itself fantasy?), creating an antihero as unpredictable as Tom Ripley.