Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Winter Thief-Jenny White

The Winter Thief
Jenny White
Norton, Mar 15 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780393070170

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

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