It is 1941 and a German Jewish scientist, along with his sister and father, is being temporarily housed by a Jewish family in the suburbs of Cairo. The physicist, Erik Blumenthal, has unknowingly fled from the frying pan into the fire. He might be Jewish, but the Germans, believing that his knowledge will assist them in creating the first atom bomb, want him back. The Americans, who are pursuing the same end, are also eager to locate him.
Heinrich Kesner is a ruthless German spy who believes that locating Blumenthal is the key to his future. Working for the Americans is an unlikely candidate. Journalist Mickey Connolly is asked by the American Ambassador to infiltrate the Jewish community by pretending to be writing a piece on the Jews of Egypt. His real goal is to find Erik Blumenthal. In a strange twist of fate, Eric’s sister, Maya, happens to meet Mickey Connolly on one of her jaunts into Cairo. As his is a secret assignment and she is using an assumed name, neither is aware of the connection and a relationship slowly develops.
The sights and scents of Cairo provide a tantalizing background to the drama and there is plenty of that, along with some odd moments that make it clear just how convoluted politics can become during times of war. Heinrich Kesner attempts to bring together the head of the Muslim Brotherhood and a young Anwar Sadat. Although Sheik Hasan al-Banna’s goal is to turn the country into a theocracy serving Allah and Sadat’s is to create a republic that serves the people, it is Kesner’s job to convince them to work together to overthrow the British and make way for the Germans. Meanwhile, the young playboy King Farouk arrives at a benefit he is throwing for B’nai B’rith in a red Mercedes that Hitler presented him as a gift.
As both sides get closer to locating Erik Blumenthal, the action heats up, lives are lost, and the outcome is uncertain until the very end of this entertaining, informative, and sometimes heartbreaking novel.