*I received a free ARC of this book via Rachel’s Random Resources blog tour. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: The Pera Palas hotel in Istanbul, Turkey plays host to the Agatha Christie Writers’ Congress when real life imitates fiction. The bodies of the Prime Minister and his occasional mistress are found dead in one of the hotel’s locked rooms surrounded by bodyguards. Seemingly, no one could get in or out, and yet…
Inspector Sinan Kaya is convinced that foreign agents are culpable, and that the murders are linked to the recent spate of killings of Turkish government officials.
Within this complicated, crime riddled city, Sinan Kaya’s moral compass never falters. Not concerned with threats of dismissal from the force, he cuts his own path through the investigation, determined to uncover the truth.
An Oriental Murder is a tale of espionage and murder set against the backdrop of beautiful Istanbul, the ancient city where east and west meet.
An Oriental Murder is a well-written paean to the land, culture and food (I’ll come back to that!) of Turkey, particularly Istanbul, set against the backdrop of a series of murders.
The story is told in the third person from the narrative viewpoint of Inspector Sinan Kaya, and much of the action occurs within his head as he mulls over the clues and makes the connections in his case/s.
I did think that there might be more parallels with Agatha Christie plots, given the nature of the convention, but in fact this is a novel firmly grounded in the mores of the society in which it is set, and that rich atmosphere permeates everything from plot to dialogue and character development.
A continuing theme in the character of Inspector Sinan is food. Sinan eats like a starving man who is worried that he might not get another opportunity! Women, career, murder… nothing is more important than savouring the flavours of his homeland. I was inspired to start looking up recipes online for the dishes as I went along, as never has my mouth watered quite so much whilst reading a crime novel!
Conversely, I found it quite difficult to believe in the romance aspects of the story, as I found Sinan’s love interest somewhat abrasive and overbearing. Also his focus on food and the case respectively, and his reserved demeanour (even in his interior voice) left little warmth for his personal relationships and if anything he seemed to tolerate others only so far as they contributed to feeding him, the case, or other *cough* uses.
An Oriental Murder is a fascinating insight into Istanbul via an investigation into espionage and murder, personal and political. I would recommend this to people who prefer their crime stories to have more contextual grounding than the average murder investigation plot.
“Inspector Sinan, we have been great admirers of your work.”
Sinan looked up as though seeing the fair, pink-cheeked trio of faces for the first time.
“Of course, of course.” Sinan talked without awareness of what he was answering.
“We are writers from Finland and we wondered if we might take some of your precious time to discuss the murder that happened in the hotel?”
Sinan tapped his knee on the bottom off the table. Yet more amateur sleuths. Was there no end? Why could they not just stick to the realm of their imaginations?
“What do you write?” Sinan asked quickly.
The three writers looked at each other before laughing.
“Why crime, of course. Why else would we be here?…”
– Jane Bastin, An Oriental Murder
An Oriental Murder is out on Amazon right now!