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The Sultan's Sealby Jenny White
Synopses & Reviews
Rich in sensuous detail, this first novel brilliantly captures the political and social upheavals of the waning Ottoman Empire. The naked body of a young Englishwoman washes up in Istanbul wearing a pendant inscribed with the seal of the deposed sultan. The death resembles the murder by strangulation of another English governess, a crime that was never solved. Kamil Pasha, a magistrate in the new secular courts, sets out to find the killer, but his dispassionate belief in science and modernity is shaken by betrayal and widening danger. In a lush, mystical voice, a young Muslim woman, Jaanan, recounts her own relationships with one of the dead women and her suspected killer. Were these political murders involving the palace or crimes of personal passion?
An absorbing tale that transports the reader to nineteenth-century Turkey, this novel is also a lyrical meditation on the contradictory desires of the human soul.
"Historical drama meets traditional murder mystery in this uneven but passionate debut. Istanbul in 1886 is in a state of enormous political and social unrest. Upper-class society has evolved a strange new stratum combining British expatriates, colonials and the clashing traditional and modern Turks, all struggling to find their place as the Ottoman Empire wanes. The citizens of Istanbul are leery of the bold and immodest behavior of the Englishwomen in their midst, but all are shocked when young Mary Dixon, governess at the imperial harem, is discovered brutally murdered. Few seem to have known the quiet, retiring Mary, but readers snatch a glimpse in the interwoven story of Jaanan, a young Turkish woman about to be forced into marriage to a man she hates and who has a strange connection to the murdered woman. The writing is lyrical and the characters enchanting, particularly Kamil Pasha, the region's magistrate, who finds himself entangled in the case. But the rich historical setting makes an uneasy match with the whodunit sleuthing; neither ends up being able to sustain the book, particularly given the placid pace of the investigation." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A wonderful read....An historical novel of the highest quality." Iain Pears
"Intricate and subtle as a Turkish carpet, lush as silk upon the skin....A fascinating and remarkably knowledgeable look at a society in flux, its very appealing characters caught between East and West, Islam and Christianity, and bound in a web of murder and treachery that only the lucky few may escape." Diana Gabaldon
"Set in nineteenth-century Istanbul, The Sultan's Seal lingers in the mind like the strong, delightful smell of an incense you will remember the next time you catch it in the air." Elif Shafak, author of The Saint of Incipient Insanities
"CSI goes Ottoman Empire...with readers easily transported back to those days when mystery and intrigue lurked around every corner." Booklist (starred review)
"A wonderful read'. An historical novel of the highest quality."'"Iain Pears
About the Author
White has a classical background in cooking and trained at the Tante Marie School. She worked as Deputy Food Editor for both BBC Vegetarian Good Food and Prima and is now a regular contributor to many other magazines. Jenny is also a food stylist.
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