- Paul Sussman
Review Copy Courtesy of Bantam and Transworld Historical Reading Challenge
Since they last met, life has moved on for Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor Police and Jerusalem detective Arieh Ben-Roe. About to become a father for the first time, Ben-Roi finds himself investigating a gruesome murder in Jerusalem's Armenian Cathedral. The victim, a journalist named Rivka Kleinberg, had been researching an article into the Israeli sex-trafficking industry. When a link emerges between Kleinberg and an English engineer who disappeared from Luxor in 1931, Ben-Roi turns for help to his old friend and sparring partner Khalifa. Khalifa's life too has changed, although in his case not for the better. Preoccupied with personal tragedy and immersed in an investigation of his own - a series of mysterious well-poisonings in Egypt's Eastern desert - he agrees for old time's sake to do some digging for his Israeli colleague. In the process, Ben-Roi might just be giving Khalifa his lust for life back. Inexorably the two investigations entwine, drawing Ben-Roi and Khalifa into a sinister web of violence, abuse, corporate malpractice and anti-capitalist terrorism. And at the heart of the web, lies the Labyrinth - a three-thousand year-old ancient Egyptian mystery that has already taken Rivka Kleinberg's life - and hers will not be the last...
Despite receiving this as part of the Transworld Historical Reading Challenge, this book is set firmly in modern times beginning with a murder in the Armenian Cathedral in Jerusalem and stretching back to the death of an Egyptoglist in the 1930 in Luxor. This an intrigue crime thriller set in one of the most complicated areas of the modern world – Jerusalem and Luxor with two detectives from very different cultures and backgrounds working at different elements of the mystery.
The characters are well written and different enough to stand out from the raft of modern detectives. Ariah Ben-Roi is the detective in Jerusalem who struggles against politics in his precinct and city while investigating the murder. He is also expecting his first child and is trying to find the balance between work and his new family responsibilities. To be honest, I found this element much more interesting as Ben-Roi works with a new partner and has a good side-line in banter that made his parts of the story comfortable and amusing. The Egyptian detective, Yusuf Khalifa has suffered a family tragedy in the recent past and this is palpable in his actions and decisions throughout the story, but does feel a little heavy. However the two ends of the investigation dovetail nicely and build up a lot of tension and questions – many of which aren’t answered until the end. I really liked the way a lot of the discoveries are made through good-old fashioned police work – investigating connections, exploring paperwork and using the brain.
Paul Sussman has a great eye of detail and obviously loves this region of the world – I feel like I could navigate both Luxor and Jerusalem just using this story as a map and guidebook! However, on occasion knowing that the exact address of every place feels like too much detail and not overly relevant to the story. While a little slow at the beginning, the pace picks up considerably towards the end with an exciting and emotional few pages. This is an intelligent thriller with a unique setting and a well woven plot – and one I would recommend for those wanting to try something a little different!
Recommended for fans of Mark Billingham and James Rollins. 7 out of 10.