Sunday, August 17, 2014

Let's Read About Egypt

Flickr - - Sphinx and pyramid, Cairo (1)

By Ian Sherlock from Puriton, UK (Sphinx and pyramid, Cairo) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve never had the opportunity to visit the country of Egypt, but it has always fascinated me. However, with so much intrigue going on in the Middle East, it’s not a place I’d want to travel around right now. The next best thing is to read about it. Here are two books I’ve read in the last year with Egypt as the setting:

The Hidden by Jo Chumas 


As winner of the Mystery and Thriller segment of the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, I expected this to be an excellent read. And in many aspects, it was. The writing is well done and the research into Egypt’s history is impeccable.

Azi Ibrahim, a university professor has been mysteriously murdered in the desert outside of Cairo and his young wife, Aimee is determined to find out why. Among his possessions, she finds a diary written by the mother who died shortly after she was born, as well as a picture of a beautiful, exotic dancer.
During her investigations to find out why her husband had the diary and who the woman is, she enlists the help of a mysterious middle-aged journalist. A man who also seems to have information regarding her husband’s death. However, joining forces with this man incriminates her as a pawn in the middle of a revolutionary war against Egypt’s king and places her into an extremely dangerous position. 
There were times when the situations seemed somewhat contrived and you had to wonder, why anyone would be so stupid as to knowingly walk into such danger. As well, I figured out the surprise ending a little over half way through.

However, I didn’t really mind that too much and it was an easy and fun read with exotic locales and two beautiful heroines.

The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer 

Sophie Kohl, the wife of an American diplomat in Hungary is traumatized when her husband is killed sitting across from her in a Budapest restaurant. Especially since, he had just told her that he knew about her illicit affair with a fellow diplomat while stationed in Cairo.

For the sake of her own conscience, she is determined to discover her husband’s killer and the reason behind his premature death. Following the trail back to Egypt and further beyond to their honeymoon in eastern Europe, twenty years earlier, she sets off a chain of reactions that put not only herself in danger, but her husband’s diplomatic associates as well.

The novel delves deep into the world of espionage intrigue and strategy where everyone is living a lie and no one is assured of their safety from one day to the next. It’s a page-turner in the strongest sense of the word and keeps the reader on edge right to the end.

There are many characters and sometimes the plot is difficult to follow, especially with so many Arab names. However, the flashbacks to the war in Croatia were very informative and gave one some incite to the problems the Serbs faced after the breakup of Marshall Tito’s Yugoslavia. It also looks at U.S. intelligence during the time of the “Arab Spring.”

I found the book well written and interesting and a must-read for lovers of political conspiracies.

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