I was struck by a blog post by Marina Sofia at the beginning of December 2015, which was brought to my attention by Jose Escribano. Both are crime fiction aficionados I follow. Marina’s post was about #DiverseDecember. This was a campaign to promote reading in December of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority writers. The reasons behind it are given on Naomi Frisby’s blog.
Inspired by Marina’s blog post, I searched my to be read (TBR) list and came up with the following two books which had been on the list for some time:
I decided that I would read these books during December 2015, pushing back the following two books newly released in November and December by my writing friends:
At first, I set about reading The Devotion of Suspect X and I found it a very easy read with a focus on the psychological terror of being found out having committed a crime. I don’t want to give away spoilers for those of you who haven’t read this book, but basically you know whodunit from the start. However, there is a twist later on in the book which I certainly hadn’t foreseen and I thoroughly enjoyed this cat-and-mouse story where the characters play off each other in a convincing way.
I found The Devotion of Suspect X such an easy read that I devoured it quickly and thought it would not be long before I got back to my less diverse reading list. However, when I moved on to The Golden Scales by Parker Bilal. I have to admit I found this story quite heavy-going in places although the writing was very good. It may have been that reading this book while Christmas approached was dissonant but I found it difficult to manage during this time.
Parker Bilal is a Sudanese author writing about a Sudanese cop turned private detective, Makana, who lives and works in Cairo during 2000. The book is packed with interesting snippets of information about life in Egypt at this time and the multi-layered political issues. The plot revolves around two separate strands – the murder of an English woman who lost her daughter in Egypt many years before and the disappearance of an Egyptian football hero.
However there was a surprise for me in the last third of the book. Eventually Parker Bilal brings everything together in a rather wonderful way and by the time I had reached this stage of it I had stopped feeling that reading it was like hard work. In fact, I was so enamoured by what I was learning about Egyptian life and culture I wanted to go straight on to read the next in his Makana series, Dogstar Rising, which is set in Cairo in 2001. Once again the politics and raw facts about life in Egypt at this time take centre stage.
So I’m really glad I decided to read these two books during Diverse December and must offer apologies to Janet O’Kane and BA Steadman for the delay in reading their new books as I now have another two in the Makana series to read while I’m now on a Makana roll. #DiverseDecember has turned into #DiverseJanuary for me!
Higashino won the prestigious Naoki Award for The Devotion of Suspect X in 2005. You can read more information about the book here.
For more information about Parker Bilal, whose real name is Jamal Mahjoub, there was an interesting article in the Guardian in 2013 on the double (literary and crime writer) life of the author.