Kamil Pasha, a Western-trained Istanbul magistrate working in the recently established secular courts, is tasked with investigating the murders of two British governesses employed by the imperial harem. This book is reviewed here because in the novel women become important assets in shedding light into what might have happened. First in line is Sybil, daughter of the British ambassador, who takes an interest in these cases and in Kamil himself. Proud of her skill in obtaining information from the elite women she visits, her blunt approaches, unseemly for a woman, shock even Kamil who has learned caution when investigating crimes which might involve connections to the court. A second female is Jaanan, a young Turkish woman with a close relationship to one of the murdered woman and in danger because of her violence reaction to the man she is being forced to marry. Third is the closed worlds of the Ottoman female societies, women of the imperial harem and those who live in tight knit rural and urban communities. Their observations of what goes on around them unfailingly uncover important evidence.
White, a professor of social anthropology, does meticulous research for her novels set in Turkey during fading days of the Ottoman Empire. Istanbul in 1887 is in a state of enormous political and social unrest. Those wanting the empire to modernize conflict with those who worry about what will happen to the fabric of society if religious ethnic and family values are displaced. For now, the culturally rich muti-denominational, multiethnic character of the empire still lingers, even while British and Russian designs on it are clearly at play.
One of three Kamil Pasha books set in fading days of the Ottoman Empire.