Hamdouchi, Abdelilah. The Butcher of Casablanca. A Detective Hanash Crime Novel. Translated by Peter Daniel. New York: Hoopoe, 2020. 248p. ISBN 978-977-416-968-7. Trade paperback. $16.95. Mystery
Detective Hanash has never had an unsolved case in his long career, whether in the era of “lead,” when suspects were guilty until proven innocent by torture, or in the new age that protects human rights. But a serial killer has begun to plague Casablanca, Morocco, a “butcher“ who discards only the bottom half of his victims. Tabloid journalists sow panic as body parts pile up and identification proves impossible. Copycat killings, though easily solved, confuse the issue. Hanash and his trusted aide Hamid, a young officer in love with the detective’s daughter, must use all their wiles to track down the killer. Moroccan crime novelist Hamdouchi’s police procedural, second in the “Detective Hanash” series (after Bled Dry), may disappoint those looking to be immersed in Casablanca’s environs or Moroccan culture. Local color is pale at best, with only sparse details to enliven the plot—e.g., the slaughter at home of a lamb for Eid al-Adha, the Feast of Sacrifice. The serial killer, largely an absent villain, is less than a gripping figure, despite the grisly butchery, and even Hanash laments the coincidence at the heart of the novel’s resolution. VERDICT This will mostly appeal to fans of the author’s previous works and similar crime novels that have sprung up in the Arab world since the 2011 uprisings.