he Haunting of Tram Car 051 is a novella written in the Dead Djinn Universe created by P. Djèlí Clark. In this alternate universe, a wise man named Al-Jahiz living in the 19th century figured out how
to pierce the veil that divides the mundane world from the magical world. With the veil parted, magical beings could enter our world. Since Al-Jahiz was based in Cairo, it was Egypt that first encountered the
Djinn. The Egyptians used the power of the Djinn to drive the English from their country, and set themselves up as a budding world power.
This story takes place about 40 years after the Djinn first entered our universe (the story takes place in 1912). Senior Agent Hamed al-Nasr works for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities - it his job
to deal with magical entities that don't act in a benign manner. Superintendent Bashir has called for an agent to handle a peculiar case - it seems that Tram Car 051 is haunted by a ghost that has attacked several women passengers, forcing
the tram car to be sidelined. The case is odd - ghosts haunt buildings, but Hamed has never heard of a ghost in a moving vehicle. Hamed has been assigned a new recruit, the enthusiastic, educated Agent Onsi. They dutifully follow Bashir out
to the haunted tram car, and discover that there is indeed an entity perched amongst the gears and mechanisms of the tram car. Onsi reads the requisite regulations to the ghost, informing it of the rules it is violating - but this only angers
the supernatural entity, and Hamed and Onsi find themselves forcibly ejected from the tram car.
The story follows Hamed and Onsi's attempts to identify just exactly what kind of magical being is in tram car, and then to exorcize it from the public property. The plot is straightforward, but what I liked was Clark's masterful world building. It seems that Clark
must have visited this magical Cairo, because his story is full of remarks about the foods the characters eat, the clothes they wear, their customs, the layout of the city of Cairo, their politics and beliefs: during the time of this ghost-investigation
Hamed and Onsi find themselves in the midst of a massive mobilization of women demanding the right to vote. Clark has imagined how the presence of magical beings might effect Egyptian society. There are primitive robots (metal beings that might be coming
self aware), airships that travel the globe, and of course steam-punk styled tram cars. All of the details rang true, it was a world that I enjoyed visiting. There is a lot of world building for a story that fills just 140 pages. I see that Clark has written
a full length novel, A Master of Djinn. I hope to read that soon.