A Master of Djinn

(Dead Djinn Universe #1)

by P. Djèlí Clark

Every since I read the novella Haunting of Tram Car 015 I’ve been a fan of Inspector Hamed, the alternate world Cairo with returned Djinn, and the flamboyance and loveable nerdiness of the characters the Clark creates– including the women who save the day.

And Master of Djinn gets all that, as well as some complex villains as well. Bravo. We get to return to the alternate Cairo, instead of Inspector Hamed however, we get Fatma el-Sha’arawi, agent of the Ministry of the Supernatural (who apparently comes from a Tor short story published online), her mysterious lover Siti, some annoying British aristocrats, and all the myriad Djinn of Cairo who’ve inserted themselves into human culture and lives.

A British secret society is murdered, Fatwa is called in, and her investigation is muddled by the supposed reappearance of the mystic who let Djinn into the human world decades ago.

At the heart of it, this is a whodunnit. Who murdered the British guys? Who is the imposter? And Clark unpicks the heart of it while giving us glimpses of Hamed and the adorable Onsi, uncovers who Siti really is, ties together what seems like disparate crimes, delves deep into Djinn culture, and basically has a love affair with clothing and this alternate Cairo’s sights and smells.

Clark’s books easily pass the Bechdel test. This one is features Fatwa and Siti, a new partner for Fatwa who is no slouch, and other side characters who are all focused on their professional lives. Very refreshing.

I’ll basically read anything by P. Djeli Clark now, he’s proven to be adept at marrying murder mysteries with fascinating surveys of fantastical alternate cultures that entertain while mirroring back the mores and problems of real life versions of those cultures. (and in this case, historical colonialism of Britain vis-a-vis African and Indian nations)

I would recommend reading the short stories first, not that you have to, but so you appreciate the glimpses of the returning side characters.