This is a remarkably detailed story for something a mere three and a half hours in length. It was in the Recorded Books folder that I have ongoing access to and which has any number of Really Great Books in it; the name intrigued me, so I downloaded it to my iPad. I’d never heard of P. Djèlí Clark, no surprise there as he’s written a scant three works to date, two set in this steampunk, djinn infested Egypt and one in a New Orleans where things are quite different as well.
This story, a novella in length, is the second set in early 1900s Egypt, an civilisation that drove the British out with the help of a wave of returned and mostly friendly supernatural beings, including the djinn. The first story was the ever so tasty “A Dead Djinn in Cairo” which involved just that and a smartly dressed, highly intelligent female detective. Alas, it wasn’t made into an audiobook, but do go read it as it’s quite excellent.
The case here begins as a rather mundane one for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities handling what appears a possessed tram car. But Senior Agent Hamed Nasr and his new partner Agent Onsi Youssef are going find that Cairo is stirring with suffragettes, ancient and deadly secret societies, and sentient metallic automatons with their own agendas in a race against time to protect the city from a danger that crosses the line between the magical and the commonplace.
The City itself is one where the djinn and other supernatural beings are part of Egyptian society, so much so that no one notices the ones that power the trams. And so, having a djinn, even a minor one, possessing a tram, is a problem. Senior Agent Nasr, however, expects it to be an easy exorcism. Hah! Very quickly the case becomes very, very complicated and runs afoul of the suffragette movement, djinn politics and a few matters they didn’t expect.
Clark‘s created a fully realised society that makes perfect sense no matter how alien it seems. It alludes just enough to the rest of the world to allow us to understand that it exists and how this Egypt came to be. The story itself is a fun, quickly moving one that makes me hope that he’ll write a novel set in this universe.
No, I’m not going to tell you anything more about the story as you deserve to experience it without being told any more details. It’s narrated bu Julian Thomas, who’s got a deft touch with voicing the different characters here and doesn’t trip over the admittedly difficult slang in the story.
(Recorded Books, 2019)