Parker Bilal – The Ghost Runner

I read far too much European crime fiction these days at the expense of books coming from other countries. Even American crime Parker Bilalwriters, a staple of my teenage years, are beginning to slip from my reading. However, I’ve been meaning to try Parker Bilal for a while, ever since I met him at a Bloomsbury event last year. I read The Ghost Runner over the Easter weekend and was pleased that I finally broke my Eurocentric reading spree. Because Bilal gives a glimpse of a world removed from the city and plunges us into the Egyptian outback where revenge and violence are treated as a matter of course.

Private Investigator Makana is in exile from his native Sudan and still trying to find out what happened to his missing wife and daughter. He is employed to track down the perpetrator of a horrific act of violence on a young girl, the trail of which leads him to the edge of the Sahara desert. There, a decades old feud is reignited and Makana’s life comes under threat as he edges closer to revealing the secrets of this small community.

I found the book to be a slow, substantial read that gradually draws the reader into the sparseness of the desert community. The initial act of violence takes place in Cairo but the narrative quickly moves to a rural setting which suits Bilal’s style of writing more. Makana feels instinctively at home in the vast landscape which reminds him of his native Sudan. For a while the Cairo crime seems far removed from the action taking place in the desert but everything slowly comes together at the conclusion.

The descriptions of the long held tensions in a remote Egyptian town is this book’s greatest strength and what started as a slow but steady read for me became compelling towards the end. I notice I have Bilal’s two earlier books on my shelves to read and I intend to make these a priority over the next month.

Many thanks to Bloomsbury for my review copy.

9 thoughts on “Parker Bilal – The Ghost Runner

  1. Kathy D.

    Good review. Appreciate that. I’ve considered reading Parker Bilal’s books, and this pushes me in that direction. I just have too much on my plate — readingwise — right now, but have him right on my TBR list.


  2. Margot Kinberg

    Sarah – Oh, this sounds as though it has such a fascinating sense of place and atmosphere. And you’re quite right that it’s good to try something outside of one’s usual reading pattern. Time for me to put Bilal on my list, too.


  3. With so much happening in this volatile region, it’d be interesting to read this novel and get a different view of things as well as a “sense of place and atmosphere” as Ms. Kinberg has noted. Thanks for the review, Sarah.


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  5. I have heard this author’s name before, but that is about it. This sounds like a setting I would like to read about. I might look for the earlier books. On the negative side, the ones I have looked into are over 400 pages. But I have been reading longer books lately, so that could be OK.


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