Summer (northern hemisphere), 2001, and religious and political tensions in Egypt form the basis of the second Makana crime novel by Parker Bilal. Whilst there's nothing new in the use of crime fiction as the vehicle for exploring society on the edge, DOGSTAR RISING set, as it is, in that place at that time, provides an illuminating alternative viewpoint. Not automatically that of the "opposing", it is a look at pressures and perspectives from another angle. It's edgy fiction based in a very edgy world.
Whilst it's obvious to Makana, Private Investigator and Sudanese refugee, that the rise of religious hatred and intolerance is history repeating itself, other outcomes are less obvious. The plot of the book revolves around the connections between the murder of a number of young boys mostly forgotten, abandoned children and the persecution of Coptic Christians. Into this mix must fit the State Security Services, the local police, religious leaders, a lowly travel agent and his family connections and a disreputable Sudanese businessman. There is also the story of Makana himself, a refugee from war-torn, corrupt Sudan, his family gone, his life lived now somewhere on the outskirts. Partially as a result of being a refugee, partly because of who he is.
Bilal works his way steadily through a plot which, whilst complicated, never bogs down. He does that whilst continuing to draw a picture of a place and a culture which is searingly honest and instructive.
DOGSTAR RISING is the second book in the Makana series, and in two books it's proved itself extremely impressive. Tackling a range of issues in a society that is particularly on edge, neither book (THE GOLDEN SCALES is the first) pull any punches, albeit without beating the reader around the head and shoulders. Clever, intelligent and extremely thought-provoking, in two books, in the space of a couple of months for this reader, this has become a series to follow closely.
Parker Bilal will be attending the Perth Writer's Festival and Adelaide Writers Week where he'll also be doing Crime Writing Workshops and launching Bloomsbury's Short Sentence Writing competition for Budding Crime Writers