Thursday, December 31, 2009
The Winter Thief
The Winter Thief: A Kamil Pasha Novel
by Jenny White
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
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 http://www.jennywhite.net/.
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.