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The Golden Scales: A Makana Mystery Hardcover – January 31, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


A subtle and politically observant thriller. Makana is a highly original investigator who immediately engages our sympathies and whose future exploits I am keen to follow. Parker Bilal's character-driven storytelling is reminiscent of Simenon at his restrained best Conor Fitzgerald The Golden Scales shows modern Cairo as a superbly exciting, edgy and dangerous setting for crime fiction. Parker Bilal has delivered an absorbing, complex lively novel to match The Times Richly evocative ... It delivers much more than efficient intrigue ... We see and feel all the drama of Egypt on the brink of change Independent His prose has a subtlety that is rarely found in crime novels Economist Bilal deftly weaves past and present in this complex and compelling mystery set in 1998 Cairo ... Wonderfully detailed, the narrative reveals Cairo as a teaming, chaotic, and ungovernable. One looks forward to the sequel Publisher's Weekly Bilal's powers of description and his sensible, wryly compassionate leading man make this an enthralling read Guardian Parker Bilal ... paints a vivid picture of an effervescent Cairo, a city that could have been tailor-made as a crime-fiction backdrop. In Makana, Bilal has created a private detective who ticks all the usual boxes of doggedness, valour and ragged nobility, but it's his backstory, and the political ferment in neighbouring Sudan, that mark him out as a fascinating protagonist ... The tale itself follows the conventions of the genre, as Makana uncovers the links that tie Cairo's criminal element to the power-brokers at the apex of polite society, but the setting and characterisation are sufficient to make The Golden Scales an auspicious debut Irish Times A vivid, energetic work ... Set in 1998, the novel shows the extremes of wealth and poverty in Egypt before the Arab spring, while Makana's personal history offers heartbreaking insights into loss and exile Sunday Times Ex-Sudanese Police Inspector Makana is one of the most enigmatic and compelling characters to enter the pages of crime fiction in recent years ... the novel, which consists of two stories almost two decades apart which slowly intertwine as the narration proceeds, is dazzling in its dexterity and thematic depth West Australian An edgy account of a former policeman tackling corruption, greed, kidnapping and the disappearance of a four-year-old girl seventeen years ago The Times Books of the Year Sunday Express --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Parker Bilal is the pseudonym for Jamal Mahjoub. Born in London and brought up in Khartoum, Sudan, Mahjoub originally trained as a geologist and has written six critically acclaimed literary novels which have been shortlisted and awarded a number of prizes. His works include: In the Hour of Signs, Travelling with Djinns, The Carrier, and The Drift Latitudes. He currently lives in Barcelona.

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Product Details

  • Series: Makana
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition first Printing edition (January 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608197948
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608197941
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,096,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lakis Fourouklas on February 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book could be read as a melancholy song for Cairo. The author, using a simple case of a disappearance, or maybe abduction, for his starting point, he travels the reader back in time and he show-lights to him the everyday life of the Egyptian capital. He does that in a somewhat light way, using a sense of humor that borders to irony, but that's not enough to hide the reality; a reality that's as bleak as the lives of the poor people in the country.
So, he talks about dirty cops and corrupted state officials, who have a lot of close ties with the rich the powerful, about the new dirty money that has been laundered in the country for the sake of some questionable characters from the former Soviet Union, and which allows certain people to make or to follow their own rules, about the city poor whose lives get from bad to worse, about the rich that reside in huge fortress-like houses, choosing to ignore all the suffering in the streets, and about the fear and the darkness that surrounds the local show biz, the sex and the drugs trade.
This novel reminds me of a crime story and a social commentary at the same time, and it's just as well that it does, if I may add. The epicenter of the plot is not so much the crime, as is the society in which it took place. A society, that back then, in 1998, was just as divided as it is now.
It all begins when some bodyguards of sorts, arrive at the boat where Makana, an ex-cop from the Sudan and now refugee lives. The men simply state to him that he has to follow them because their boss wants to meet him, and he just obeys, since he knows too well that he has no word in the matter anyway.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By fiction_fridaynirvana_com on January 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Golden Scales is not just a mystery novel; it is much more. The book's basic plot stems from the two mysterious disappearances, but the author develops this into a full-fledged almost literary novel touching upon subjects from personal upheaval to public politics to Islamic philosophy. Bilal builds up Makana's character beautifully; we know Makana as he is now and we delve into his past. We understand why he is what he is, and the events that have shaped him. Makana is a strong protagonist, down but not out, bearing the courage to stand and press on for what is right. This book, as strongly built-up as it is, is quite unforgettable because of Makana.

Bilal also describes Egypt well - it's people, it's locales, it's vernacular language, and the political influences that shape the region. As readers we are able to get a good virtual look-seee around.As Makana goes about investigating he meets all sorts of people - football stars, film producers, politicians, struggling actresses, land sharks, Russian gangsters - each person for himself, wanting, grasping. Each of the characters in the book is well depicted, from their back-stories and their connections to the missing people, to their own motivations for the crimes. I loved the fact that even while this was a mystery novel, I got a sense of the socio-political climate, the life of ordinary people, the quality of women's lives and the ever-present corruption; the mystery didn't exist in isolation, it stemmed from it's society and it's culture and the nature of it's people.

This is an engrossing book, an atmospheric mystery and an engaging piece of fiction. I hope to read many more Makana mysteries. Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Julia Flyte TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 7, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Set in an unsettled Cairo, shortly after the 1997 terrorist attacks in Luxor, this is the story of a private detective hired to find a missing soccer star by the team's millionaire owner. Makana is a terrific character: brave, damaged and cynical, a former policeman who fled Sudan when civil unrest made it too dangerous. The story is interwoven with a cold case about an English woman trying to find her daughter who was abducted in Cairo 16 years earlier. When the woman is murdered, Makana takes an interest in the case and investigates that along with the missing soccer player.

This is an absorbing mystery, perhaps a little overcomplicated, perhaps too reliant on coincidence, but redeemed by the strong sense of place and the intriguing characters. It moves at a good pace and holds the reader's interest. It's a strong crime novel with a very interesting setting.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Being a bit of a sucker for a strong sense of place, and culture I was intrigued by the Makana series, and lucky enough to get the second book - DOGSTAR RISING for review. But this seemed to me to be a series that should begin at the very beginning, so I shouted myself the first book, THE GOLDEN SCALES.

In terms of sense of place, and the society in which the book is set, it was extremely well done. The ancient city of Cairo is not just the backdrop for the story, it inhabits the action. There's a physical feeling of the souks, and alleys, the dark corners in which the unknown lurks. Part fascinating and compelling, part frightening and threatening, THE GOLDEN SCALES paints Cairo as a place in which people could disappear. Some willingly, some not. It also paints Cairo as a place that provides some refuge for Makana, a former Sudanese policeman, who lives physically and emotionally on the outskirts of the society to which he fled when things in his homeland got very dangerous.

That idea of Makana, a refugee from violence, ex-policeman now living and working on the fringes, as the person that one of the most powerful, wealthy and dodgy men in Cairo would turn to when a player from his team goes missing sort of makes sense, just as the fact that the missing player is treated as a son of Saad Hanafi, gangster, developer, father, and man with a very chequered past, means that the choice of investigator doesn't make sense. There's obviously a reason buried deep in the mire of those who work for and against Hanafi, and somewhere in the middle of a corrupt and compromised political and policing system. In the middle of all of this an Englishwoman returns to Cairo, still searching for the daughter that has been missing now for many years.
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