Lead Review

  • Book: Assembly of the Dead
  • Location: Marrakech
  • Author: Saeida Rouass

Review Author: tripfiction



A hugely descriptive crime mystery set in the narrow alleyways around Jemaa el Fna, Koutoubia Mosque and the souks of old Marrakesh. The colour, smells and tastes – many of them rank – just lift off the pages of this colourful odyssey.

Girls are going missing, more than at first acknowledged and Farook al-Alami from Tangier is sent to the city to investigate further. He takes up residence in a funduq (where only a desperate traveller would take lodgings). The value of women is of course negligible and therefore their individual disappearances command little or no interest from the authorities. There are also too many political machinations going on for any real attention to be given to this alarming situation.

The story is further set against the wider political manoeuvrings of the Western Powers who were at the time laying claim to Morocco and other African nations. Farook al-Alami is an educated man who has recently been in London and has learned of the police procedures around the Jack the Ripper investigations; perhaps indeed he himself is now looking for a Moorish Jack. He has the ability to stand back from the prevailing culture and mores, and is able to take a broader overview. He sets to work with Yusuf, upon whom he relies for local knowledge, although they have little in common.

This slow burning mystery is brought to technicolour life by the wonderfully researched backdrop of the city and conjures up a way of life that is still evident in little snatches for any traveller venturing to Marrakesh. An excellent novel to get a sense of the footsteps past in this bustling and oftentimes overwhelming city.

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