Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Dead Man in Istanbul: Review

A Dead Man in Istanbul is a historical mystery by Michael Pearce set in 1911 in the leisurely days before the First World War. Special Branch Officer Seymour is sent to Turkey by the Foreign Office to investigate the death of the Second Secretary of the British Embassy in Istanbul. Cunnigham had made a lot of romantic noise about Hero and Leander and the famous swim across the Dardanelles Straits and vowed that he would make an attempt to recreate the legendary feat. But instead of Hero it was the dark figure of Death waiting on the other side and as soon as he reached the far shore he fell down dead with a bullet in the center of his forehead. Did he really swim in memory of the famous lovers or was it a cover for a spying mission? Seymour must follow a winding trail from the music theatres of Istanbul to coffee shops and barber shops to the Palace full of princes jockeying for position as the current ruler fades physically. Is it a matter of political violence and have the legendary Flesheaters returned to restore the Empire to the old ways? Or is the motive far more personal?

This was a good solid introduction (although it is the second in the series) to Pearce's historical mysteries. He authentically evokes the time and setting and introduces an interesting investigator--I do hope he gives more descriptive passages about Seymour in the future. The bulk of the book is carried by dialogue. Pearce is very adept with dialogue, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. One quibble--probably a very personal one--is the overuse of "Old boy" in addressing one another. There is one character in particular who throws those around as often as a Valley Girl uses "like." In fact, if I had read just a few more "Old boys" from that character, I would have been looking for a way to enter the page and murder him--that would give Seymour a nifty little mystery to solve.

Overall, I enjoyed the story itself and look forward to reading more of the series. The culprit was a little too obvious to me--I just thought Pearce was making rather a point of a certain possible motive and that, therefore, that couldn't be the real motive. I wound up being correct but I don't know if everyone would have a similar reaction. ★★

This is the second Clue book for my new Super Book Password Challenge: clue portion of the title is in bold above. Please feel free to join in and guess (using the form provided at the Headquarters link) even if you're not inclined to participate as a reader/clue-giver.


fredamans said...

I don't know if I could get into this one, but the setting appeals to me. Istanbul, because of Cappadoccia, is on my bucket list!
Great review!

Ryan said...

I would be willing to read this for the setting alone.