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Egypt-England - 1911

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The Serpent and the Scorpion

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

This second book in Langley-Hawthorne’s Ursula Marlow series begins in Egypt where Ursula, in charge of her dead father’s English textile mills, is visiting the source of her cotton supply. There she encounters the intrigues and worries about British control that characterized the tensions just before the outbreak of World War I. British fears of Bolshevik sabotage, of the growing strength of regional nationalism, of attempts to settle European Jews in Palestine, and of greedy British businessmen selling arms to the Ottoman Turks, or whomever else will pay for them, are key plot elements.

The Marlow character remains as interesting as ever. Ursula is subjected to the censor of her upper class world and her lover, the mysterious Lord Wrotham. But she perseveres in her quest to unravel the possible connection between the deaths of her Russian friend in Egypt and a Russian born female employee in one of her northern English mills. Ursula’s brief interaction with Eugenie Mahfouz, a daughter of a wealthy French merchant who married a prominent Egyptian, is unfortunately the only glimpse Langley-Hawthorne gives us into Egyptian society. Ursula’s suffrage ties and the WSPU’s militant actions in Britain make a brief appearance in the latter pages of the book.

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