The Winter Thief


This third novel in the series that began with The Sultan’s Seal features sleuth Kamil Pasha in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. What begins with a clandestine attempt to publish The Communist Manifesto in Sultan Abdulhamid’s Istanbul quickly escalates to include gun running, bank robbery, an explosion that causes the disappearance of Kamil Pasha’s brother-in-law along with suspicions of his unfaithfulness, seriously perverse secret police, and the uprising of whole provinces.

White’s command of the time period and every historical detail is economical, just the right amount, with never a false step. Her way with words and imagery is a pleasure to read. My few quibbles come with broader technicalities. Vahid, Kamil’s “most ruthless adversary to date,” was obsessive to the point of stereotype. And I haven’t read the previous books, but moving to the broad canvas of Armenian/socialist rebellion was a bit jarring in a book that starts out with the cozy miniatures of intimate family concerns. Followers of this series must already have come to know these characters and be anxious to pursue them. This change of scope made me lose the important moment when Kamil’s sister finds her missing husband and even distracted from the consummation of Kamil and Elif’s love. Such pitfalls accumulate as many series progress. Not that I regret the broader focus exactly. Stories that help us understand the precursors to genocide from both sides are always instructive.

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