Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In my review of When Gravity Fails, I compared Marid Audran to the fictional detective Sam Spade. In A Fire in the Sun, Audran moved away from the Sam Spade model as he became more and more involved in the dealings of Friedlander Bey. At the same time, Bey was cutting Audran off from all his friends. The Exile Kiss opens with Audran and Bey cut off from all their resources.
As Audran and Bey leave a party thrown by the amir in honor of Audran's wedding to his ex-partner's wife (another parallel to Sam Spade), they are exiled by Lieutenant Hajjar for a murder they did not commit and left in the middle of the Arabian Desert. The first half of the novel deals with their trek from the sands of the Arabian Peninsula back to civilization.
Effinger uses this time to further develop Audran's character. Not only does it serve to heighten Audran's spirituality, but by witnessing the actions of the Bedu and particularly their leader, Hassanein, Audran learns a sense of patience which was previously lacking from his character.
Eventually, of course, Bey and Audran must return to their native city to attempt to clear their names. It is only at that time that they realize the full extent of the plot against them. Even before they are left in the desert, they know their fate was decided by Abu Adil and Lieutenant Hajjar. Hajjar, however, is merely Abu Adil's pawn and Friedlander Bey refuses to allow Audran to take revenge directly against their rival. One can only hope Effinger will eventually tell the tale which binds Bey and Abu Adil, but for the timebeing that story remains a mystery.
On his return to the (still unnamed) city, Audran exhibits traits of yet another famous character, playing Michael Corleone to Friedlander Bey's Vito Corleone. Like Michael Corleone, Marid Audran desires to avoid being drawn in too closely to Bey's organization. Like Michael Corleone, Audran has little choice in the matter. He does, however, seem to enjoy the power he has more than his cinematic parallel.
The Exile Kiss is darker than either of its two predecessors as Marid Audran becomes a another Job, losing all the wealth and power which he has been given by Bey in the preceding year. Furthermore, because Effinger does not tie up all the loose ends, there is a sense of incompleteness to the novel. Fortunately, after a drought of six years, Effinger is at work on a fourth Marid Audran novel, Word of Night, which opens with the resolution to one of these loose ends.
One section of The Exile Kiss can be read as a cluse to the city's location, although it is surely a red herring. When Bey and Audran return to the city, they lie low at the Blue Parrot, a bar whose proprietor is referred to as Signor Ferrari. However, since the denizens of the city refer to Maghrebi as outsiders, Audran's adventures can not take place in Casablanca.