'Zanzibar . . . The name itself, languid and conspiratorial, was a kind of illusion. It seemed to speak of the heart's desire, of that yearning for paradise which is itself a sign we are fallen - that we are in the dirty realm of history, of actuality, of fact.'
The year is 1998. Nick Karolides is a marine biologist working on coral reef protection off Zanzibar - the East African island of slaves, sultans and spices that for centuries has signified both the exotic and the malevolent. On a trip to the Tanzanian capital of Dar-es-Salaam he meets Miranda Powers, an American who works in the US embassy there. Together they find themselves embroiled in a terrorist conspiracy, one with which CIA veteran Jack Queller has an ancient connection.
In Zanzibar, Giles Foden draws on current events in order to create a contemporary historical novel of dazzling virtuosity. Both an investigation of the idea of paradise and a powerfully dramatic political thriller, it features Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network long before 'September 11' made them notorious.