Thriller

Book Review – Diamond Dust by Ahmed Mourad

Lots of people practice the bedtime ritual of repeatedly replaying an argument they’ve had with someone in their heads. They fantasize about different scenarios-saying or doing something that’s so out of character, until they win and finally doze off. The novelist Ahmed Mourad in Diamond Dust novel brews up a diabolic concoction, a panacea for all our problems with mortals. A Good riddance!

Diamond Dust is an intriguing mixture of crime, thriller, social, and political all-in-one novel. It reveals the life behind-the-scenes and rampant corruption among social classes and the men of law. It tells the story of three generations of two families, El-Zahar (the punishers) and Bergass (the corruptors), and Walid Sultan, the debauched chief of detectives.

Taha Hussein Hanafy El-Zahar is the main character, a young man who lived with his crippled father in a small apartment in Dokki. He held two jobs, a medical representative and a night shift pharmacist, and practiced one hobby, drumming. His life was like a motionless pond; everyday he puts on a suit, a necktie, a leather suitcase with all kinds of cajolery stuff for physicians, and the glibness of a high-pressure salesman. The first pebble tossed in his pond was a dire encounter with Dokki constituency bully-aptly dubbed Service-at the pharmacy. Twenty-four hours later, a boulder fell in his pond displacing all the water that was once there; Hussein El-Zahar was killed and Taha almost died! Hussein’s life also seemed pathetic, trapped in a wheelchair looking out his window with binoculars and scribbling all day long. But after his murder, Taha discovered his dad’s aged notebook and a remarkable tool. Hussein El-Zahar wasn’t pathetic after all!

And a chain reaction of killings ensued…

The narrative mostly takes place in 2008. It starts with the grandfather Hanafy El-Zahar who owned an herbs shop in Haret El-Yahud in 1954, and hung out with his friends Yousef Bakhoum and Lieto who was Jewish, like a snapshot from the movie ‘Hassan, Morcos, and Cohen’. It briefly mentions the tripartite invasion and evacuation of Egyptian Jews. Hanafy had seven children; Hussein was his favorite-Hanafy’s mini-me. Hanafy’s character is close to the soft womanizing Si-Sayed, not the authoritarian. Lieto played an influential role in Hussein’s life; even his red-headed, flirtatious daughter ‘Tuna’ who was Hussein’s first heartbreak. Taha inherited his father’s genes and fell in love with a red-head too, ‘Sarah’ the neighborhood’s bombshell. Taha describes her as “intentionally seductive!” Despite the gloomy facts in the novel that depicts the perpetual moral decay in our society, Ahmed Mourad’s sarcastic voice represented in ‘Yasser’ will make you laugh. Yasser is the comical, panicky childhood friend and cafĂ© buddy of Taha. He is gangly, outmoded with his plaid shirts and punk hairstyle, and a womanizer, ironically!

The novel flows smoothly and ends happily in Sharm Elsheikh. There is no guesswork as the plot is revealed in the middle, but the events never abate or cease to shock you. The photographer and novelist Ahmed Mourad knows how to tantalize and engage his readers by mixing facts with fiction and using everyday language in all his three novels, Vertigo, Diamond Dust, and The Blue Elephant. The last two novels will be made into movies and Vertigo was made into a TV series last Ramadan, starring Hend Sabry.