Fatma el-Sha’awari, of the Egyptian Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities, prefers to wear European suits, always impeccably matched with shirt, tie, and bowler hat, of course. Since the 1912 Cairo in need of magical protection is a colorful and diverse city, host to people and magical beings from all over the world, this does not stand out. Well, not very much, anyway.
This is P. Djeli Clark’s first novel, but Agent Fatma and the magical cases she solves have appeared in several novellas (available at Tor.com). It is not the first appearance of Clark’s vibrant version of Cairo, either. This Cairo has been transformed into a world power by the emergence of magic brought about four decades ago by the genius magician Al-Jahiz. It is a fascinating place, run with the help of clockwork artificial intelligence and powered by magic and steam.
But this might be Agent Fatma’s toughest case yet. A person claiming to be Al-Jahiz returned, is terrorizing the people and djinn of Cairo, beginning by murdering an entire secret society of Englishmen dedicated to preserving the wisdom of the original Al-Jahiz. Plus, only slightly less concerning, Agent Fatma, who is famous for always working alone, has been saddled with a partner, a hijab-wearing new trainee who really admires her detective work.
The murder investigation makes a tense and entertaining read, highly recommended particularly for fans of snarky magical detectives like Ben Aaronivich’s Peter Grant.