The daring detective duo ride again! After their Egyptian adventures in ‘Fatal Tears’ Rupert and Stephen are at it again (you can keep your mind in the gutter).
The period is roughly the same – 1930ish – with the focus on the Middle East as the potential flashpoint which it has well and truly become. This brings me to my favourite point in this series thus far. Fifield has a marvellous talent for putting his characters into time and place but with wit (‘old fruit’) while at the same time pointing out the origins of future conflicts and some of the motivations behind them. In this case, we are taken into the post WWI world of Iraq, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon as the twin forces of petro-politics and emerging fundamentalist Zionism develop their positions and prepare the long road of conflict. Paralleling this is the world or Mussolini Italy pre Imperial expansion, a glance at French manoeuvrings (never trust them) and Britain’s desires to conduct the band even as her powers steadily erode (especially as mandates drop away in Palestine and Iraq). Even the wittily named ‘Uncle’ is still still inhabiting his Whitehall close and baronial manor manfully pulling strings.
These books are a wonderful blend of story-telling in exotic and time past venues combined with skilfully drawn characters. I heartily enjoy the juxtaposition of these relics of WWI as they battle on the best British schoolboy manner against the background of conflicts that were then becoming increasingly real and urgent and often continue to remain the most urgent sources of contemporary concern.
Rupert and his pal Dr Hopkins are now more clearly in as much of a permanent relationship as the times permit though the frequent mentions of Stephen’s leg stump might signal some future concerns. As usual, the sex is described without any potential concerns for straight readers who will not be ‘put off’ from a developing warm and deep love.
I again have to admit to personal resonances with this volume having visited most of the places mentioned including the desert oil zones between the Syrian-Iraq border. The descriptions are largely well done (Petra) and only add to my enjoyment and may encourage readers to visits the scenic locations when safety permits.
Readers can only wonder what is in store with the promised third book. I shall be waiting.