Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Review of The Ghost Runner by Parker Bilal (2014, Bloomsbury)
The Ghost Runner is the third instalment of the Makana series set in Egypt. In this outing Makana investigates the murder of a young girl, suspecting her former terrorist father of committing an honour killing. Travelling to a small town in the desert he tries to piece together the family history and pick up the trail of the father. His arrival coincides with a series of deaths and it is clear that the legacy of an event many years earlier is unfolding. The Makana series has a number of appealing strengths that are once again evident in The Ghost Runner, such as its atmospheric sense of place, its contextualisation within Eygpt’s politics and history, and its well-drawn characters. In particular, Makana is a detective worth spending time with – a clever, taciturn man haunted by the loss of his family in his flight from Sudan who is quietly patient and persistent. As with the first two books, the tale extends well beyond a straight forward murder investigation, with Parker embedding the story within a wider narrative of local, national and international politics, and exploring themes of family, gender, honour, corruption and terrorism. As such, there’s an awful lot going on, though it never feels rushed or confused, and indeed the tale sagged a little bit in the middle as Makana makes little progress, before picking up in the last third as the tension and body count rises. It’s fair to say that there were quite a few plot devices used to make the whole thing hang together and the two denouements were somewhat contrived. Nonetheless The Ghost Runner is an absorbing read.