Bled dry by Abdelilah Hamdouchi

Bled dry by Abdelilah Hamdouchi

Morrocan fiction

Translator – Benjamin Smith

Source – review copy

I reviewed another crime novel by Hamdouchi a couple of years ago the Final bet. Which focus on a different detective and a different part of the Moroccan society. But this is the first in a new series he is writing set Casablanca and with the Detective Hanash as he heads into the slums of that city. Hamdouchi writes also for Tv in Morroco police dramas. He lives in Rabat in Morocco. This is from Hoopoe fiction a branch of AUC press.

Detective Hanash was in his fifties, and only a few years from retirement.. Everything about him suggested a man who had spent a lifetime interrogating ciminals, studying murderers, and unraveling clues to crimes. This was how he got his nickname “Hanash” which meant “Snake” his real name was Mohamed Bineesa.He would change character by “Shedding his skin” and then “Strike” his prey. Those who met Detective Hanash for the first time immediately got a sense of his strange personality, and those who had met him on multiple occasions tended to find him quite unpleasent

The Detective Hanash described remind me of so many classic detectives.

The problem in crime novels is when to set the murder. To early I find and the characters that have been killed have no backstory and too late it is mat to short for the crime to be solved. Well this book for me has it right. We start by discovering the life of Nezha, she is a young woman that has been drawn into being a prostitute to keep her family together. We see her as she works the men she meets a mixture of men from factory men to police, to religious men. She has got used to the work as it is what keeps her life on track. But then something happens and she and her lover are found dead then step in Hanash a man called the snake by those who know him and because when he gets his prey he will strike. He is drawn into the dark streets and has a connection with the dead that means he wants this crime sorted as soon as possible.

Nezha normally spent the morning hours asleep, and didn’t wake until three or four in the afternoon. She would have a meal with her mother and then prep for another night out. She would shower, get dressed, tie her hair back, and leave the house looking like she was going to a normal job. She’d then head straight to Salwa’s salon, whish she considered a second homeIt was there that she would get herhair done and makeup, in preparation for the evening.

Nezha does it for the family and  tries to keep up normal appearance for everyone.

Now, this is a better than a normal crime novel. The first part of the book is a wonderful look at the underbelly of the city through the eyes of NEzha as she visits her men and we see how extremist are creeping into the city. This is a good piece of social insight. Hanash is a detective that is clearly pencilled out as a bit of a loner a man that maybe rubs his colleagues up the wrong way. Part Rebus part Harry hole, a loose cannon of a detective. world-weary also aware of the reality of the city he lives in as he walks into its underbelly to find a killer. I look forward to reading more in this series it is one of the best crime novels I have read, great pacing, interesting main characters and interesting settings.

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Butterfly wings by Mohamed Salmawy

 

Butterfly wings by Mohamed Salmawy

Egyptian fiction

Original title أجنحة الفراشة

Translator – Raphael Cohen

Source – Library edition

I took some short novels from the library to read on my time off , but as ever when you are away time was short sightseeing and spending time with amanda but I did manage to read this great Arabic novel by Mohamed Salmawy . Salmawy is the president of the writers union of Egypt and secretary-general of the Arab Writers and also editor of a leading daily newspaper. This book came out just before the events of 2011 , so in a way is quite insightful about what happened then .

Doha imagined that meeting Ashraf al-Zayni on the plane had been a chance encounter.It would be over when the flight ended and they went their separate ways- she to Milan for the annual fashion show and he to Palermo in Scilly for the international NGO conference. Fate , however had something in store for her that she neither expected nor imagined.

The three and a half hours of the flight from Cario to Rome left an impression that would remain with her for the rest of her life.She had never met anyone like Ashraf al-Zayni before .She saw in him something she not seen in other politicians, plus  he had brought back to life something inside her that she had not believed still existed

The chancce encounter leaves an impression on the both .

This is a story with two main characters in it Doha is a fashion designer , a sort of link between the west and arab world , she comfortably travels between here homeland and The fashion world of Italy . Her husband is a leading figure in the Murbareck regime . We see their privileged world . But after a chance encounter with Dr Ashraf a man from the opposition she meets when they are both in Rome after talking to him she sees a new insight into her world . But even with this sense the wind may be changing in her homeland she returns and like the old saying about chaos theory a butterfly wings flapping can change the world the butterfly appears time after time whether flying or in patterns on the clothes Doha is wanting to show , the two meet later in the book as the tables are turned slightly from their first meeting  . Add to that a couple of small side stories about a man waiting to meet his internet wife and a pair of brothers hunting for the real mother.

Unable to rest, Doha flicked through The butterflies of Egypt , she came to a photograph of the mural in the tomb where the ancient  Egyptian artist had painted a picture of the butterfly . The tomb belonged to a noble called Nob Amun. According to the book , there were fifty-eight indigenous species in Egypt , which was a relatively small number in comparison with other countries. This was due to Egypt’s desert environment . Neverless , Egypt’s butterflies had adapted to the harsh conditions and were able to survive and maintain their beauty despite hardships

LIke the country itself the butterflies make a good metaphor from the Egypt post Arab spring .

This is another book that captures the can of worms that was opened in Egypt when Murbarek regime was on the verge of collapsing as part of the Arab spring A figure like Ashraf , is a passionate voice of a the young people on the street we saw so much in the TV coverage  clever wanting a bright future , which as we know never really happened . There is also echos of this change in the brothers seeking their mother a new mother maybe is clever metaphor for a new country and leadership. I also love the subtle use of butterflies as a recurring Motif throughout the book. But also a larger motif of the country emerging as a butterfly from it catalyst moment of the riots being the start of something beautiful like a pure white Butterfly. This is clever look at the recent past of Egypt.

June 2018
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