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Effendi (The Second Arabesk) - A novel by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Spectra | August 2005 | ISBN: 0553587447 | 432 pages | PDF | 5.4 MB

Effendi is as impressive as Pashazade, Jon Courtenay Grimwood's first novel of crime and punishment in an alternate-world Alexandria. Now the chief of police of El Iskandryia rather than a hunted fugitive seeking refuge there, the electronically and otherwise augmented Ashraf finds himself investigating both terror attacks against tourists and charges of long-ago crimes against humanity levelled against Hamzah, the man whose daughter he might have married. With the help of his equally odd and talented niece, the child Hani, Ashraf pursues his own unorthodox investigatory methods and his own social and political agendas; he is sympathetic neither to the elite who suck the blood of his city nor to the fanatics who seek to replace them. His and Grimwood's city is a place where past and future meet--where mediaeval barbarism and high-tech go hand in hand and every so often the reader is brought face to face with the ways in which this world is both the same as our own and radically different. Grimwood effortlessly plays by several sets of rules at once and is as accomplished a thriller writer--doing noir as well as he does courtrooms--as he is as a writer of his own, sometimes quite strange, brand of commercial SF.

The brilliant sequel to the critically acclaimed PASHAZADE Among many other things, Ashraf Bey is a fugitive from the US justice system (definitely); son of the Emir of Tunis (possibly); and chief of detectives in the El Iskandryian police force (apparently). Small wonder that he's a little confused. Raf's ex-fiance Zara still doesn't want to see him, so she says. His nine-year-old niece is busy doing things with computers that are strictly illegal. And when the city suddenly starts to fall apart and Zara's father is accused of mass-murder, Raf begins to learn the true cost of loyalty. As the US, France and Germany try to dominate both the present and future of the Middle East in this alternate 21st century - as they have the past - Ashraf Bey must become both saviour and avenger. It's not an easy trick, but someone has to do it...

Excerpted from Effendi by Jon Courtenay Grimwood.


27th October

‘Of course,’ said Ashraf Bey. ‘We could just kill the defendant
and be done with it . . .’ He let his suggestion hang in the cold
air. And when no one replied, Raf shrugged. ‘Okay,’ he said.
‘Maybe not.’
It was getting late and autumn rain fell steadily on the
darkened streets outside, while inside, sat around their table,
Raf’s visitors continued to chase the same argument in tight
circles. A Grand Jury was in session. If three judges plus a
senior detective in a damp, third-storey office could be called
anything so imposing, which seemed doubtful.
‘An accident,’ suggested Raf. ‘The steps in this precinct are
notoriously slippery. Or perhaps suicide . . . Shoe laces, an
unfortunately overlooked belt . . . ? One of my people would
have to be reprimanded obviously.’
Raf looked from Graf Ernst von B, the German boy, to a sourfaced
politician from New Jersey who insisted everyone call her
Senator Liz, neither of whom met his eye. There was also an
elderly French oil magnate, but he sat so quietly Raf mostly forgot
he was there. Which was probably the man’s intention.
‘Alternatively,’ said Raf, ‘I could have him taken out to the
courtyard and shot. Or, if you like, we could lose the body
altogether and just pretend he never existed. One of the old
Greek cisterns should take care of that.’
They didn’t like this idea either; but then the young detective
with the Armani wrap-rounds and drop-pearl earring hadn’t
expected them to . . . He was acting as magister to their judges.
And no one as yet, least of all him, seemed very sure what that
actually entailed.
‘Justice,’ Senator Liz said loudly, ‘must be seen to be done.’
Her voice remained as irritating as when the session began
several hours earlier.
‘Lord Hewart,’ Raf pulled the quote from memory. ‘One of the
worst judges in history. And even he never suggested putting a
North African trial on American television.’
‘That’s not . . .’ Ernst von B’s protest died as Raf flipped up
a hand.
‘Let’s hear what St Cloud thinks,’ he said and turned to the
Frenchman. ‘Do you think justice needs to be televised?’
‘Me?’ Astolphe de St Cloud slid a cigar case from his inside
pocket. And though the iridescence of its lizard skin was
beautiful, even by the light of a single hurricane lamp, what
they all noticed was the enamel clasp: an eagle spreading its
wings, while jagged thunderbolts fell from between the bird’s
sharp claws.
As if anyone there needed reminding that St Cloud would
have been Prince Imperial, if only his father had bothered to
marry his mother.
‘It depends,’ said St Cloud, ‘on what Your Excellency means
by justice . . .’ Shuffling a handful of prints, he stopped at one
which showed a young girl with most of her stomach missing.
‘If we decide the evidence is convincing enough, then obviously
the prisoner must stand trial. Like Senator Liz, my only reservation
is that, perhaps, El Iskandryia is not quite . . .’
Raf caught the wry amusement in the Marquis’ voice and
glanced round the room, trying to see it through the eyes of
a man whose own business empire was run from a Moorish
palace overlooking Tunisia’s Cap Bon; and who now found
himself in a third-floor office, without electricity, on the corner
of Boulevard Champollion and Rue Riyad Pasha, in a tatty
four-square government block built around a huge courtyard
in best Nationalist Revival style.
At street level the exterior walls to Iskandryia’s Police HQ
were faced with cheap sheets of reconstituted marble, while
glass hid the exterior of the two floors above. Black glass
obviously. The architect had been on loan from Moscow.
It showed.
As for the level of comfort on offer . . . A fire burned in
a bucket in the centre of the floor, filled with logs from a
dying carob. Apparently, the tree had been not quite alive
and not yet dead for as long as even Raf’s oldest detectives
could remember.
Two men from uniform had hacked it off just above the roots,
using fire-axes. Now chunks of its carcass spat and spluttered as
thin flames danced across the top of their makeshift brazier.
Directly above the brazier, suspended from the centre of the
ceiling like an inverted red mushroom, hung a state-of-the-art
smoke detector. Like almost everything else in Iskandryia since
the EMP bomb, it no longer worked.
And behind Raf’s head, a window unit that once adjusted
electronically to lighting conditions had been rendered smoke
friendly, also with a fire-axe. Through its shattered centre came
flecks of rain and a salt wind that blew in from the Eastern
‘Justice,’ said Raf, ‘is whatever we decide . . .’

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