*** The City of the Sun

By Juliana Maio – “Cairo during the war was what Casablanca had been mythologized as in the eponymous Humphrey Bogart film–a romantic desert crossroads of the world, of spies and soldiers and cares and casbahs and women with pasts and men with futures . . .” (William Stadiem). So begins the epigram to Maio’s thriller, her first book. She picked this less well-trodden geography and a pivotal time–1941–as her setting. Rommel threatens the city from a rapidly diminishing distance and the Muslim Brotherhood and a group of dissident Egyptian Army officers threatens from within. With great potential for drama and the urgency of war, she places her two main characters, who are fairly well-rounded, and a second tier of less compelling actors. The writer relies too heavily on cliches–”happy as a clam” “looking resplendent and every inch a woman”–that made me wince, but the storytelling kept the pages turning.  (2/15)