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The Damascened Blade by Barbara Cleverly
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The Damascened Blade by Barbara Cleverly is the 3rd book of the Joe Sandilands mystery series set in 1922 Peshawar District, North-West Frontier Province of India. Joe Sandilands, former military officer, is a Scotland Yard detective. He's sent to a remote fort near Khyber Pass on the Afghan border with an American heiress from Chicago. Lily Coblenz is eager for adventure, brushes off warnings of danger. Her quick wits and courage serve her well, as she encounters way more adventure than she expected.

A large cast of visitors arrive at the fort with Joe: the fort commander's wife Betty, doctor Grace on her way to the Amir in Afghanistan, and several British officials (too many are introduced at once, bogging down the story, making it difficult to effectively remember distinct individuals, but eventually each has a clear role and impact in the mystery).

Pathans Zeman and Iskander are honored guests at the fort (whether the visiting British officials like it or not). Next morning, Zeman is found dead on the stairs, apparently a victim of food poisoning. Joe finds Lily an intelligent confidante, the only other one who recognizes foul play. What Joe cannot tell is who is guilty, who is covering it up?

The primary theme of the book is "badal" (revenge), a fundamental principle of the Pathan code of conduct; secondary theme is "melmastia" (hospitality). Fort commander James Lindsay must offer melmastia to honored guests, while aware they are motivated by badal.

Zeman's death is followed by a kidnapping, a frantic search of hostile desert, then a clever rescue aided by a coincidental childbirth. Plot twists keep up the excitement, and allow Lily to show off her sharp-shooting prowess. An enjoyable adventure rich with detail of historic India (now Pakistan), including a caravan of traders traversing the Khyber Pass in their annual trek along the Silk Road.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
June 22, 2019 – Shelved
June 22, 2019 – Finished Reading

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