The Sultan’s Seal
In late 19th century Istanbul, the body of a young Englishwoman has washed ashore, and it soon becomes apparent that she was not only a governess in the current sultan’s household, but was also wearing a necklace that tied her to the former deposed sultan. The crime also resembles the unsolved murder of another English governess years before. Magistrate Kamil Pasha clings to science in the midst of political intrigue as his murder investigation intertwines with the story of a young Muslim woman who is linked to both governesses.
White skillfully evokes the turbulent zeitgeist of 1880s Turkey, and the atmosphere she conjures is perfect—the old Empire of odalisques and harems dissolving into a modern Turkish society. The contrast of the Western and Eastern worlds in Istanbul and the ways in which their collision affects the character relationships is fascinating. Kamil Pasha is a well-drawn and sympathetic character, and the reader is given a deeper look into his psyche than usually happens in mysteries. The mystery plot itself moves along rather lazily, but the scenery is so nice that the reader won’t mind much. Extremely well done for a debut work, this novel is a lavish and enjoyable read.