The Sultan's Seal


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It is the year Rumi year 1302 or 1886 by the Christian calendar. The setting is Istanbul where the naked body of a white woman had been found floating in the Bosphorus. Around her neck is a pendant that contains the tughra, the Sultan's seal - a signature that is only found on special possessions of the imperial household. For Kamil Pasha, the city's magistrate, there are echoes of a similar murder - of an English governess - that took place eight years before. There are also links to a woman called Jaanan, a member of ...

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Apr 27, 2007

Lovely but Loose-Ended

I love the "cozy" English mystery; the kind where horror happens in an everyday setting and the author plays fair, for if one is sharp one can spot the villain before the end of the book as all the clues are there in the text. The author keeps nothing back for the bafflement of his reader. I bought this one because its advertising compared it to Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. Sad to say, not true.
The craftsmanship of the writing is superb; each image is painted in jewel-toned colors. The immediacy of the text draws the reader instantly into Victorian Istanbul with first-person narrative, extracts of personal letters and the use of "Kamil sees" instead of "Kamil saw". Paragraphs of description are delights instead of tedium. Where it all falls down is the plot. The author becomes involved with one character to the exclusion of caring about the others. Once that side story is finished, the loose threads are left hanging for them all. It's like a beautiful Ottoman carpet woven perfectly until the last edge, then it is ripped off the loom and left jagged and unraveling.
Perhaps the author intends a sequel? I'm afraid I won't buy it.

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