x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Vertigo: where Cairo's corrupt get their comeuppance

Ahmed Mourad offers a steamy mix of political intrigue and shady dealings, with a slice of societal observation on the moral decline of contemporary Cairo.

Vertigo, Ahmed Mourad (translated by Robin Moger), Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, Dh69
Vertigo, Ahmed Mourad (translated by Robin Moger), Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, Dh69

The blurb on the dust-jacket of this novel teases that "Vertigo … has been reprinted seven times in the original Arabic and translated into Italian". It's a promising sell to Ahmed Mourad's debut novel and the book emerges as a steamy mix of political intrigue and shady dealings, with a slice of societal observation on the moral decline of contempary Cairo.

Ahmed Kamal is the unfortunate protagonist thrust into the eye of the storm. After witnessing and inadvertently recording a friend's brutal death in the crossfire of an assassination, his life takes a downward detour into the city's murky underworld. Ahmed, it transpires, is made of sturdier stuff than initially appears and he goes on to tackle his high-society adversaries with a competence that could put a smile on the face of Dumas's Count of Monte Cristo.

Is Vertigo a work of groundbreaking proportions? Not quite. But what it does deliver is the usual thrills and spills worthy of a good pulp-fiction romp. If filthy-rich no-gooders getting what they deserve is what you want to read, then you get that here with aplomb.