Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Winter Thief

The Winter Thief: A Kamil Pasha Novel
by Jenny White
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

Copyright 2009

I received The Winter Thief as an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) in the mail along with Christmas cards and the Southern Living Cookbook I bought for my son and daughter-in-law as a gift. Ah! A gift for ME!

"December 1888. Vera Arti carries the Communist Manfesto in Armenian through Istanbul's streets, unaware of the men following her. When the police discover a shipload of guns and the Imperial Ottoman Bank is blown up, suspicion falls on a socialist commune of Arti's friends organized in the eastern mountains. Special Prosecutor Kamil Pasha is called in to investigate. He soon encounters his most ruthless adversary to date: Vahid, head of a special branch of the secret police, who has convinced the sultan that the commune is leading a secessionist movement and should be destroyed - along with surrounding villages. Kamil must stop the massacre, but he finds himself on the wrong side of the law, framed for murder and accused of treason, his family and the woman he loves threatened." (from the back cover)

Well, in the rush and pressure of the season it took me awhile to immerse myself into the derring-do of Kamil Pasha, his buddy, Omar the Police Chief, et al. Actually, it took me some time to sort and cypher names and characters, and to grasp the bureaucracy of the 1888 Ottoman Empire. The Winter Thief is the third book in the series of Kamil Pasha novels and I had not read the previous two, The Sultan's Seal and The Abyssinian Proof. I was pretty much at sea, adrift and flailing in the midst of a place and time in history about which I knew next to nothing. Now that's not all bad - it sent me to googling, reading and learning about a fascinating time and place. But I was half-way through the book before I felt comfortable and more familiar with Kamil Pasha's life and times. For these novels to be stand-alone novels there needs to be more transitional backstory interwoven into the first few chapters.

However, that said, I became enthralled with the machinations of Sultan Abdulhamid's empire and the roiling diversity, political and religious movements of an ancient culture and country with which I was only vaguely familiar. Really, very fascinating. Jenny White is a social anthropologist focused on Turkey, its history and current political culture. You can find her at

I had difficulties with the seeming naiveté and innocence of White's women characters. It made their actions seem disingenuous and I had a hard time warming up to any of them. Perhaps that's my 21st century prejudices showing, but I felt the need for more clarification, more of their stories. We got bits and pieces, but I wanted more.

But I definitely want more of Kamil Pasha….and Omar, too. I very much liked them. I will be adding the first two novels to my TBR list.

*March 15, 2010 is the release date given.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What is it....

about this time of year that can turn perfectly grounded and sane adult human beings into blithering idiots?

Now, I'm not talking the Christmas Syndrome where you feel compelled to shop for every sentient being who has smiled at you or the Perfect Parents' Psychotic Christmas Break where the pile of kids' presents is taller than the 13' foot tree you bought at full price because the youngest whined that the 6 ' one you bought last year after Christmas - 70% off! - was dorky looking.

No. Those are understandable. I've been there, done that. But what insanity drives two of the aforementioned adults to adopt a puppy in winter? When they have two other dogs and two cats already in the household?

The thermometer said -3 F this morning and I stood outside in pjs, robe and slippers, shivering, while I encouraged a four pound, 12 week old Fell Terrier named Archie to pee before our noses froze and fell off.

He didn't.

He waited until he got inside where it was warm.

I didn't blame him.

So, we will have a nice warm house this winter....that smells of puppy pee.