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The Winter Thief

A book by Jenny White

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Dark but well-written historical mystery set in 1888 in Istanbul

  • Mar 25, 2011

"The Winter Thief" is a historical mystery set in 1888 in Istanbul and in some rural villages along the border with Russia. This book was the third in the series and may spoil events in the previous novels, however, you don't need to read them to understand this one. It wasn't until I was about to write this review that I even realized this book was a part of a series.

The vivid setting details and historical political and everyday details were expertly woven into the story, bringing it alive in my imagination without slowing the pace or falling into a history lesson. The suspense was created by mystery, physical danger, and relationship tensions. Curiosity about what happened to or would happen to the characters kept me turning the pages. However, it's a rather dark novel and included torture and a lot of people dying needlessly for Vahid's ambition.

The characters were interesting, complex, and realistic. The author did an excellent job of letting the reader know why people were acting the way they were and it was consistent with their background. She even worked some subtle symbolism into various scenes.

There was a minor amount of cussing and swearing. There was one page containing a graphic sex scene and several very brief but sometimes graphic scenes of torture and rape. Overall, I found the novel very well written even though I didn't really enjoy the story. While realistic, the story was too depressing for me to enjoy. However, if you're in the mood for a dark story and like historicals, I'd recommend this one.

I received a review copy of this novel from the publisher.

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May 02, 2011
Had you read the other books in the series before reading this one? Sounds like an interesting historical mystery.
May 03, 2011
No, I haven't read any of the other novels in this series. This review copy showed up unexpectedly at my doorstep and it looked interesting, so I read it. :) I've actually heard that the previous novels are a little less depressing, so I might look them up someday.
May 04, 2011
Well, nice to know that you were able to jump into the series and not miss too much or enjoy this read less. I love when books show up unexpectedly on my doorstep too! Email me the other reviews once/if you read the rest of the books in the series. :)
About the reviewer
Debbie White ()
Ranked #119
I review books, do organic gardening (vegetables, fruit trees, etc.), mentor a young lady, and work with inmates at the local jail and state prison units. I live in a passive solar house (with an active … more
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About this book


In the bitter winter of 1888, police in Istanbul confiscate a shipload of illegal firearms, and the Imperial Ottoman Bank is blown up, killing many bystanders. Suspicion falls on a socialist commune being organized in the eastern mountains. Investigating, Special Prosecutor Kamil Pasha encounters his most ruthless adversary to date: Vahid, the ambitious head of the secret police, who has convinced the sultan that the commune is leading a secessionist movement.

Kamil, sent to investigate the commune, finds the commune has peaceful intentions. But the army begins destroying the surrounding Armenian villages--Vahid has convinced the Sultan not to wait for Kamil's report. Kamil feels obligated to stop the massacre, especially when it seems partly aimed at killing him. But doing so will put him on the wrong side of the law and put his life and the woman he loves in grave danger.
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ISBN-10: 0393338843
ISBN-13: 9780393338843
Author: Jenny White
Genre: Historical Fiction, mystery/suspense
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Date Published: February 21, 2011
ISBN: 9780393338843
Format: trade paperback
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