Wednesday, June 2, 2021

A Master of Djinn (Dead Djinn Universe #1), by P. Djèlí Clark (author), Suehyla El-Attar (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781250807731, May 2021

In 1912 Cairo, Fatma el-Sha'arawi is the youngest woman agent  at the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities, and last summer, she saved the universe from destruction. Now, she's been called in on a most unusual murder. The entire membership of a small secret brotherhood dedicated to al-Jahiz, one of the most famous men in history, who among other things opened the wall between our world and the world where djinn had retreated to, has been killed.

What makes this case clearly a Ministry matter is the fact that with one exception, all the dead were burnt to death--but only their flesh, no damage to their clothes. The last victim was not burnt; his head has been turned completely backwards on his body, a feat requiring superhuman strength.

All the members but two were English, not Egyptian. The head of the brotherhood was Lord Worthington, "the English basha," much admired in Egypt for having helped negotiate the peace after Egypt successfully threw out its European invaders. The meeting, and the murders, took place in his home. The only surviving witness, Lord Worthington's daughter, Abigail, says that as she returned home, a masked man clad all in black rushed past her.

It's not long before a masked man clad all in black is holding rallies in the poorer neighborhoods of the city, accompanied by ifrit, and seemingly magical warriors, claiming to be al-Jahiz returned, determined to right the social wrongs of modern Egypt. 

Soon Fatma is hunting the identity of the imposter--along with her surprise new partner, Hadia, the newest woman agent of the Ministry, young and enthusiastic and with some unexpected competences. Chasing the imposter soon means chasing an artifact that's very had even to think about, the Seal of Solomon, which enables its wielder to control djinn--the djinn negotiated with the angels to cloud the minds of humans so they can't remember it even if they encounter information about it, and djinn can't speak about it.

Along the way Fatma learns some startling new information about her clever and sometimes evasive girlfriend, Siti, and ramifications of the ways magic and technology have changed Egyptian life--but not for everyone. We also get to see more of Siti's family, learn from Hadia the advantage of paying attention in Egyptian literature class, and something of the extent of the revival of the worship of the old Egyptian gods in this now solidly Muslim country.

Oh, and there's the international peace conference disrupted by the imposter, and the awakening of the "Nine Sleeping Lords," the most powerful of the ifrit, who are not at all friendly to mixed society largely governed by human rules that now exists.

It's a good mystery, and a good story with solid, interesting characters, and we get to know the characters and the society better in this novel, after the two previous novellas.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

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