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A Dead Man in Istanbul

by Michael Pearce

      Fans of Michael Pearce's award-winning Mamur Zapt novels are sure to be disappointed that no further entries in this series appear to be in the pipeline, but now we have Seymour of Special Branch instead. This Whitechapel son of immigrants gets sent for when the more usual channels of investigation appear to be going nowhere, and so far he has solved one other case in A Dead Man in Trieste. Now he has to find out why the Second Secretary of the embassy in Istanbul has managed to get himself shot after swimming the Dardanelles Straits. Was he attempting to repeat the daring feat performed by Leander in classical times, or did he have another reason, and how does all this connect with the controversial Theater of Desires?

I confess to being rather disappointed in A Dead Man in Trieste after the Mamur Zapt books. The atmosphere wasn't there, the plot seemed plodding and humor lacking. But the series is getting more into its stride by this second book, and although I haven't been to Istanbul in 1911 (no time machine) I imagine that he has caught the ambience very well. This is a story about the new rubbing against the old, east meeting west and the rumblings of war in the air. Seymour is in a unique place to observe and investigate, being neither one thing nor the other and thus he makes a successful and entertaining sleuth. This is a very tortuous tale, and there are plenty of red herrings to follow before the conclusion (I didn't guess it). There is more of the famous Pearce dry humor this time, although not to the extent of the Mamur Zapt series but fans of these other books are likely to find much in here to enjoy. I confess now to rather looking forward to the third installment...

The Book

Constable (Constable & Robinson)
29 September 2005
Historical Crime [1911, Istanbul, Turkey]
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2005
© 2005