Ashraf Bey is a cipher to everyone, but most of all to himself. He arrives in El Iskandriya, a city on the Mediterranean Sea in a world where the Germans won the first World War and the Ottoman Empire never collapsed. Ashraf has few clues as to his true identity, just papers hinting at a noble father and a potential arranged marriage with a woman who has her own secrets.

Caught in a net of murderous intrigue, Ashraf not only has to come to terms with who he is and wants to become, he has to prove that he didn't commit a brutal murder while protecting the innocent girl who has become his ward.

First in the Arabesk series, this book is utterly compelling. Ashraf is mysterious without being remote, and his quest to solve the dual mysteries of the book makes for fascinating reading. Grimwood has built a solid alternate history, completely plausible in every detail and peopled with characters as unique as El Iskandriya itself. (Mar., 374 pp., $12.00)
Reviewed by: 
Natalie A. Luhrs