A Captive in Algiers (Muhammed Amalfi Mysteries) by A J Lewis
|A Captive in Algiers (Muhammed Amalfi Mysteries) by A J Lewis|
|Category: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: The first book in what looks to be a great historical fiction series. Great evocation of time and place and compelling characterisation|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 230||Date: June 2023|
|Publisher: Independently Published|
|External links: Author's website|
When we first meet our hero, his name is Ettore and he lives at The House of Beautiful Swallows. Idyllic as this might sound, it's a bordello and Ettore's mother died when he was born. He's not been short of mothers, though - but for someone of his background in late-eighteenth-century Amalfi, it's difficult to obtain decent employment. The stint working with the preparation of anchovies didn't work out and bastards are considered bad luck on fishing boats. Ettore was nothing if not resourceful - and determined - and it was not long before he had a successful business as a guide for visitors. He was even saving some money.
We know all this because author AJ Lewis tells us about the time capsule, the contents of which told his family history and particularly the story of Muhammad Mawla Jafar al-Amalfi, Chief Commissioner of the Hinterlands of Algiers, his father's great, great grandfather. It's these documents which have formed the basis for the ten-volume series of Muhammed Amalfi mysteries.
When you're at the beginning of a ten-volume series, it's not unusual to find that the first book simply sets the scene for what's to follow. That doesn't happen in A Captive in Algiers. Ettore 'borrows' a boat to take one of his clients out to a ship one evening, without having due regard for the weather and finds that they're blown dramatically off course. What follows is a brilliant sea-going thriller and a great evocation of the privations of being caught at sea with little in the way of provisions. Logically, I knew that it was going to work out for Ettore, if not for the other two people in the boat, but I still couldn't put the book down. I'd been rooting for Ettore right from the beginning of the book, even if he wasn't always completely honest.
That sense of time and place is true throughout the book, from the anchovy shed (oh, the smell: it lingered...) through to the conditions in Algiers. There's sufficient about the historical context too but not so much that you feel every bit of research has been shoehorned in. If I have one minor quibble about the book, it's that the sub-title led me to expect a mystery when this is probably better described as a thriller - but that's me being very picky.
I'd like to thank the publisher for sending a copy to the Bookbag: it's been a real pleasure to read and I can't wait to hear what happens to Ettore next.
You can read more about A J Lewis here.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Captive in Algiers (Muhammed Amalfi Mysteries) by A J Lewis at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Captive in Algiers (Muhammed Amalfi Mysteries) by A J Lewis at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.