This story precedes The Haunting of Tram Car 015 and lays down some of the backstory that’s not quite explained in that book. It, like that other story, makes me hope Clark will actually write a novel set in the alternate twentieth century Cairo, as it’d be a fascinating place to explore at length.
What starts off as an unusual suicide case (djinns don’t commit suicide) for Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi leads her through the city’s underbelly as she encounters rampaging ghouls, saucy assassins, clockwork angels, and plot that could unravel time itself
Now Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi is a fascinating central character, as she’s the first female investigator in the history of Cairo. She dresses like a smartly dressed Western male in suits and a bowler hat — I pictured her showing up on the contemporary Doctor Who alongside the Thirteenth Doctor investigating a case gone horribly wrong. Or perhaps alongside the Twelfth Doctor in the “Mummy on The Train” episode.
The world depicted here is not a fantasy one but one where the djinn and all the other supernatural beings are as logical as cats. So the rules governing their behaviour are logical and precise. So how do you kill a djinn and make it look like suicide? Very, very carefully. And she encounters a convoluted plot that involves assassins, ghouls and angels, and seeks to replace this Creation with another one. Can Fatma save the world as she knows it, or will everything she knows cease to exist?
So like The Haunting of Tram Car 015, it’s great characters, a fascinating setting and an absolutely riveting story that only, perhaps, suffers from being too short. Now that’s only because damn it I want that novel I noted before.
A hint: since there’s already another novella in the series, you know the answer. Oh and I just discovered that there is an audiobook version which I now need to give a listen to as I know it’ll be splendid.