Still in Books and Arts; Book Review;New thriller;Wreathed in smoke;
The Golden Scales. By Parker Bilal.
Parker Bilal whisks the reader straight to the dark heart of Cairo. From the maze of alleys in the medieval bazaar to sand-blown, half-finished luxury housing developments, the Egyptian capital is a menacing place where betrayal swirls like an army of djinns.
Makana is a poverty-stricken Sudanese political exile living alone on a rickety houseboat on the Nile. He is commissioned by Hanafi, a violent and corrupt Cairene oligarch, with finding Adil Romario, a star football player. Meanwhile, Liz Markham, the daughter of a British aristocrat, has been tortured and murdered while searching for her daughter, who went missing in Cairo more than 20 years earlier. A former policeman himself, Makana is no naif, but he rapidly finds himself in a perilous world peopled with Egypt's ultra-rich, Islamic militants and Russian organised crime. It's a heady mix, but one that Mr Bilal pulls off with verve.
Makana，苏丹人士，穷困潦倒，因政治问题被流放他乡，独居于尼罗河上一艘破败不堪的船屋里。他肩负开罗残暴腐朽的独裁者Hanafi的使命，寻找足球明星Adil Romario。同时，英国贵族之女Liz Markham在寻找20余年前在开罗丢失的女儿时被折磨并被杀害了。Makana曾为警察，自然绝不天真，但很快却发现自己身陷人间地狱，周围尽是埃及巨富、伊斯兰好战分子，还有俄罗斯人组织的犯罪。这是个让人眼花缭乱的局面，Bilal先生却用高超的技艺成功驾驭了它。
A London-born literary novelist, Parker Bilal (whose real name is Jamal Mahjoub) has also lived in Cairo and Sudan. His prose has a subtlety that is rarely found in crime novels: an old man “screwed up his face so that all the lines drew together, like a net being drawn in”; metal rods on a construction site are scattered like “enormous burned matchsticks”; naked light bulbs on an electrical flex resemble “strange fruits on a vine”. The novel is set in pre-Arab-spring Cairo and the city is vividly evoked, its smells and sounds almost seeping from the pages. Characters such as Okasha, a policeman who is Makana's friend and ally, and Sami, a terrier-like reporter, are nuanced and believable though the story flags a little in the middle—always tricky territory for a crime novel—and there are perhaps one too many meaningful meetings with long looks across the table wreathed in cigarette smoke. In the end there is justice, of a sort. Some evildoers are punished, others walk free protected by higher authorities, just as they probably would in real-life Cairo. The twist at the end is subtly signalled. Makana, too, has his demons. His journey, as he learns to live with them, stays with you.
Parker Bilal（真名为Jamal Mahjoub）生于伦敦，曾居于苏丹和开罗，擅写小说，文笔优美。他的犯罪小说字字璇玑，笔触细腻精妙，有如散文，甚为难得：一位老人“饱经风霜，脸上的皱纹交结在一起，如同一张收拢的渔网。”；建筑工地散乱的钢筋像“无数烧过的火柴棍儿”；灯泡没有灯罩，悬在花线末端，宛如“葡萄藤上奇异的水果”。小说将故事背景设在“阿拉伯之春”前，鲜活地重现了当时的开罗：它的喧嚣，它的气味，全都跃然纸上，呼之欲出。小说对角色的刻画细致入微，真实可信；Makana的同盟好友Okasha警官，对朋友忠诚友善的记者Sami都是如此。然而文章的中段有些拖沓——犯罪小说很难处理好这些地方——还有一些多余的“有意义”的会面，人从这头穿过氤氲的烟雾看着桌子的那头。在文章最后，正义勉强算是得到了伸张。一些行恶之人受到了惩罚，一些则在上头的保护下逍遥法外；如果真的是在开罗，最后结局大概也就是这样。结尾的大转折在前文中埋有伏笔。Makana心中也有自己的恶魔。在旅途中，他学习着如何与它们一道生活；在这条路上，他与你相随。