Parker Bilal’s The Ghost Runner was in my top five reads of 2014. It was an evocative tale of despair and revenge set in the Egyptian desert. For The Burning Gates, Bilal brings his investigator, Makana, back to Cairo to track down a painting that was stolen from Baghdad during the US invasion. But soon his employer is dead and Makana finds himself the subject of competing attentions from various businessmen whose interests extend beyond the art world.
Bilal’s greatest strength is the quality of his writing. All the Makana books have been very well written and The Burning Gates is no exception. You get a feel of the writer’s craft that has gone into both plotting the book and executing the narrative. Bilal doesn’t shy away from violence and there’s always strong sense of menace in his books. This is particularly so in The Burning Gates where towards the end, it becomes quite a bloodbath.
Parker is excellent at depicting a Sudanese exile mourning his former country and the sense of loss permeates the novel. A recurring thread in the Makana books is the loss of his wife and daughter. It’s revisited again here and it would be nice to see it resolved at some point.
Bilal’s writing is something different to a lot of the crime fiction out there. Once again I recommend reading his novels. He’s proof that crime fiction can be written to the highest standard.
Thanks to Bloomsbury for my review copy.