A bank robbery and illegal weapons lead Kamil Pasha to uncover a plan to massacre an entire valley.
The Washington Post
Meet the Author
Jenny White is the author of the Kamil Pasha series: The Sultan’s Sea (a finalist for the Ellis Peters Historical Crime Award), The Abyssinian Proof and The Winter Thief. She is a professor of anthropology at Boston University, specializing in Turkey.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
This is a thriller that takes place in Istanbul, Ottoman Turkey, in 1888. The main character is Kamil Pasha, who is a Magistrate assigned to investigate first the shipment of a boatload full of small arms that was intercepted at the port hidden in what were labeled as barrels of fish, and then the theft of a large quantity of gold from a bank, which was bombed after the crime was completed, causing a fire in a nearby tavern which resulted in extensive damage and loss of life. The book's other major characters are a young newly married couple of idealistic socialists/communists, who have moved to Istanbul from Europe, heading to Eastern Turkey to help establish a farming commune there that would be mostly Armenian with a small international flavor. The husband was the intended recipient of the guns, which were meant for protection from expansion-minded Russians, and he also stole the gold to finance the new community. The head of the secret police, a ruthless, sadistic, power-hungry character, tries to paint the socialists as revolutionaries against the Sultan, in order to increase his influence and control. The story of Kamil's family, his sister and her husband, are also integrated into this plot. His brother-in-law is missing after the tavern fire, and a desperate search begins to find him. He is also in danger because the head of the secret police has a grudge against him. Kamil also has a love interest. This is the third Kamil Pasha book from White, but I have not read the first two books or even heard about them until I saw something about this publication that caught my eye. The story held my interest and I cared about the characters. It seems to be historically accurate (the author is a professor of anthropology specializing in Turkey). There was only one part of the story line, near the end of the book, that made little sense to me, but it was a minor issue that did not detract much from my enjoyment of the book. And, I found the inevitable battle scene a little hard to follow. Still, I would recommend the book for anyone who likes a decent thriller or a good historical novel.
In 1888 Istanbul, Vera Arti carries the Armenian language version of The Communist Manifesto, ignorant that she is being followed. However attention is elsewhere in the tumultuous city when the Imperial Ottoman Bank is robbed and blown up. Secret Police Chief Vahid sees an opportunity for increasing his power so blames Armenian Communists as easy scapegoats, knowing they have a socialist commune nearby. He persuades the Sultan to allow him to destroy these separatists and any village in their vicinity as the locals obviously abetted their movement. As Vahid leads a brutal deadly ethnic cleansing purge, Special Prosecutor Kamil Pasha heads the official investigation into the bank incident. However, instead of support Kamil and his police are treated with contempt, their families threatened, and the Special prosecutor accused by Vahid's agents of murder and seditious activities in support of the separatists. Meanwhile Vahid continues his massacre using ethnic differences as tools to manipulate the Sultan and the citizens. The third Kamil Pasha late nineteenth century Ottoman Empire police procedural (see THE SULTAN'S SEAL and THE ABYSSINIAN PROOF) is again more a deep historical tale than a whodunit as the investigation enhances the insightful look at the era. The inquiry is strong as Pasha and his police subordinates bring out in depth a troubled era enhanced by the moral dilemma they confront of doing the job right vs. protecting their family. Pasha understands the innocent are pawns of an insidious, ambitious but brilliant fiend; whatever choice he makes someone will suffer unfairly from the wrath of injustice. This is a great historical with a powerful values' message involving personal courage at a time when the safer solution is to salute the Sultan and his sinister Secret Police chief. Harriet Klausner