Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Pashazade: John Courtenay Grimwood

Jon Courtenay Grimwood, author of Pashazade, was born in Malta in 1953, and grew up in Malta, Britain, Southeast Asia and Norway. He and his wife, novelist Sam Baker, divide their time between Winchester and Paris. Grimwood has written mostly novels in the science fiction and fantasy genres, and many of them also have mystery elements. This is the second book I have read by this author, and I hope to read many more.


Pashazade is the first book in the Arabesk Trilogy. The story starts with the investigation of a murder, but the chapters skip back and forth in time, sometimes a few days, sometimes going back years in flashbacks. The setting in the present time is El Iskandryia, a North African metropolis in a world where "the United States brokered a deal that ended World War I and the Ottoman Empire never collapsed," as described on the back of the book. So this is an alternate history, sci-fi, coming of age thriller, and just my cup of tea.

The central character in the trilogy is Ashraf al-Mansur, also known as 'Raf' and 'ZeeZee' (which gets confusing). He is a young man who has been released from a Seattle prison and brought to El Iskandryia to marry the daughter of the wealthy Hamzah Effendi. Supposedly he is the son of the Emir of Tunis, thus the title of the book. Pashazade is an Ottoman form of address or epithet, meaning "son of a Pasha". Raf is not sure about this; he has never known who his father was. Shortly after arriving and having met his new family, Raf is accused of a murder and thus gets involved in the investigation in order to clear himself.

I love the way Grimwood writes. The story was very complex and was often hard to follow. I wavered between confused and delighted and sometimes had no idea where the story was going, but I loved the journey.

He has created characters I care about and takes time to develop them. In addition to Raf, there is Zara, Hamzah Effendi's daughter, who is no more interested in the arranged marriage than he is. There is Hani, his nine-year-old cousin, a wonderful character. And Chief of Detectives Felix Abrinsky, formerly a policeman in Los Angeles, California, who is investigating the murder that Raf is accused of.

The author combines a murder investigation, although a very offbeat one, and alternate history, and throws in just a bit of sci fi. Many crime fiction readers won't go for that combination, but I do highly recommend this author and his writing. It is my impression that much of his work follows this same pattern. The first book I read by Grimwood was 9tail Fox, which is a standalone.

-----------------------------

Publisher:   Bantam, 2005. Orig. pub. 2001.
Length:       356 pages
Series:        Arabesk Trilogy #1
Format:       Trade paperback
Setting:       North African, alternate history version
Genre:        Sci fi / Mystery

10 comments:

  1. Glad you enjoyed this one, but I don't reckon it's one I will be looking for myself. I'll stick with my unread 9TAIL FOX!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of the two, Col, I cannot decide which is better. But you would probably like 9tail Fox better, so that is a good choice.

      Delete
  2. I don't usually go for fantasy and/or scifi, Tracy. But I always appreciate an author who can draw the reader in with skilled writing. Glad you liked this one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do like it when mystery is combined with other genres, Margot, but it really helps if the writing is very appealing.

      Delete
  3. This one is tipping over the edge from my usual genre, but you do make it sound interesting...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moira, it is so hard to tell whether other readers would like this or not that I don't like to push it too much. Sometimes what works for one reader is not right for another. But I loved it. And the characters. One reviewer liked it fine but thought the author was trying to do too much in one book... which is probably true.

      Delete
  4. I hate to admit this, Tracy, but altho the cover dazzles and the plot and milieu sound intriguing, I have a terrible time getting comfortable with names that look unpronouncable. And I don't move my lips when I read, either (at least I don't think I do).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have a similar problem with names like that in books also, Mathew. Mostly I have problems keeping track of who is who, and then I am always wondering if I am pronouncing them correctly.

      Delete
  5. Tracy, I like the setting, a bit historical as it may seem, and the journey and the characters one meets along the way. A nice title to the book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice title and nice cover, Prashant. I am trying not to hold on to so many books after I have read them, but this one is a keeper.

      Delete