Jenny White brings us The Sultan’s Seal: A Novel. This is a book that must not be put down until finished – otherwise you lose track of what the heck is happening. The novel is not written from the classic “one style” approach. Jenny White jumps from first to third to omniscient viewpoints at the flip of the chapter. I found myself wanting to keep a score card of sorts to keep track of whose perspective I was reading and at which point in time. Ms. White jumps backward in time – writing in the present tense is a slightly jarring experience as dead characters are alive for a page before snapping back into the “current” state.
Set in the late Ottoman Empire at the turn of the 19th Century, it begins with the death of a young European woman. While the magistrate in charge, Kamil Pasha, works to solve the crime, he determines that the death of another European woman some years past might be related. The inability to solve the prior crime forced Kamil’s father out of the same position making this all the more important for Kamil to solve. Many of the characters turn out not to be who they first appear to be.
Ms. White writes about the countryside and scenery in a manner that expects them to become more than the two bit characters they really are. I’m not sure that she’s found her niche, she writes in whispers where whole stories could erupt. Her talent seems to be hiding as demurely as a woman’s face behind the veils of the harems she describes.
As I turned the final pages, I found that I was looking forward to the sequel. In proper literary license Jenny White leaves me thinking that I might know some of the answers, but I am less sure of myself than Kamil Pasha is.