Friday, June 19, 2020

The Haunting of Tram Car 015, by P. Djèlí Clark, ISBN 9781250294807, February 2019

Senior Agent Hamed al-Nasr, and his new partner, brand-new Agent Onsi, of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities, are called in to investigate the haunting of a Cairo tram car.

This is, of course, not out Cairo. This is Cairo in the first part of the 20th century, and on a different timeline than ours. In 1879, a man bored through the wall separating our world from the world of the djinn, in the process weakening the wall between the worlds everywhere. Egypt was the first beneficiary, for good and ill, and European powers were driven out. Egypt became a constitutional monarchy. And like the UK, they have an active women's suffrage movement.

So back to the haunted tram car. They quickly determine that it's not a ghost causing the problem. That's no surprise. The Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities has never found any ghosts, no matter how much people believe they exist. It's something else, most likely some variety of djinn.
But what kind? A visit to the library turns up evidence that the words the creature used might be Turkic. A chance encounter at Hamed's favorite restaurant sends them to an old doll maker, who tells them, no, Armenian, and it sounds like it's an al. From one woman after another, they get hints, pointers, help, even as the women's suffrage issue is building towards a vote in parliament. 

The creature they're dealing with is a nasty one, not at all like the many djinn who work with or are even ordinary, working members of Cairo's very diverse society. And both th agents' knowledge and skills, and those of the women they encounter, are going to be essential to solving this potentially deadly problem.

I really loved this, and I dearly hope Clark writes more in this world. Highly recommended.

I received this story as part of the Hugo Voters packet, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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