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As they drove, Makana tried to recall what he knew about the man he was being summoned to meet. The name Saad Hanafi was not unfamiliar to him, just as it was not unfamiliar to anyone in the country who had eyes and ears. …
Saad Hanafi was one of the richest man in Egypt. He was also one of the most influential. His interests ranged from substantial stakes in a handful of foreign automobile franchises, to include frozen-food lines, insurance companies, a good deal of real estate … and most important of all, a football team. …
‘I have a problem with one of my players …’ …
‘What’s the problem?’
‘He has disappeared. Gone missing.’
Makana waited. Hanafi glared at him. He seemed annoyed that his words weren’t producing more of a response.
‘I’m not talking about just any player. This is Adil Romario.’
Even Makana had heard of Adil Romario.The Dreem Teem star player’s face was everywhere, even more prominent than that of old man Hanafi himself. …
‘He has one of the most well-known faces in the country. How could he disappear?’
‘If I knew that I wouldn’t need your help,’ grunted Hanafi.
from: The Golden Scales
A Lonely PI in Present-Day Egypt
The scene in the citation reminded me of some lonely private eyes in Los Angeles, in the 40s … 50s, later in the 60s … 70s. Almost always it starts with a more or less rich person who is looking for someone or something that got missing. When the investigation gains traction suddenly there is a mess of past and present, more people and family connections than expected, more crime, corpses suddenly piling up, more deceitfulness as it seemed at the very beginning.
Makana is a true successor to these famous hardcore private eyes that are driven by their ambition to clarify the last unknown fact and serve up justice – even if they are the losers at the end. Makana’s turf is mainly Cairo, the Egyptian megalopolis and he is active -mainly – in our millennium. His cases are as tricky and complex as you may expect from a captivating detective story, garnished with violence and a mesh of lies.
Cairo is a vibrant setting providing people of all shades: rich, poor and even less than poor, Egyptians as well as Europeans, Americans … Russians, refugees, non-believers and bigoted muslims … and whatever you may imagine. All this is further roughed up by the aftermath of 9/11 and the civil wars resp. riots in the Middle East, which is on the doorstep. Not to mention the advancing takeover of the religious fanatics infiltrating administration and everyday life.
Makana came to Cairo after having to flee from Sudan, where he had been a successful police inspector with his own team responsible for violent felonies like murder. He had a solid, unflappable trust in law and order, even when Islamic fundamentals gained importance in his native Sudan. Unfortunately he was wrong.
He didn’t leave in time for saving his wife and his daughter, instead he was unofficially arrested and tortured … Finally he was released, came home, took his family and started for Egypt. Unfortunately it was too late – there was an ambush and his wife and his daughter drowned, when their car rushed into the Nile from a bridge. Only Makana was able to save his skin and stumble into Egypt.
The tragedy of his drowning family haunts him until present. It is seven years after the incident when he appears in the first novel … time flies … finally it’s about fifteen years he’s working as a private investigator. During all these years he has nightmares about the night his family died. However, during these years there seem to be hints that it wasn’t like he remembers … Slowly there are clues and personal bits of information … I don’t want to spoil the story, but there is a development revealing the truth behind the tragedy.
Back to his present life: Makana lives on a house boat moored on the Nile bank, a home rather simple and not very robust. It’s all he can afford. He was a skilled investigator in Sudan in a well payed position, but in Egypt he has to take any cases just to survive. During his exile he found friends and created a network of contacts and informants helping him to master his professional life.
At first sight his cases seem straightforward and trivial, but there is always trouble hidden in the background. Often it turns out that his clients have their own agenda, not disclosing towards Makana. More than once it ends up for Makana in life-threatening situations when he dives deeper than planned.
… at the end Makana survives and his reputation grows – and there is a little of hope for a happy life at some indefinite future.