Monday, October 8, 2012
Review of Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon (Simon and Schuster, 2012)
In Istanbul Passage Kanon envelopes the reader in the city in the immediate post-war era - a city on the fulcrum between East and West in a country seeking to remain somewhat neutral in the coming cold war. Kanon expertly recreates its cultural landscape and sense of place - the melting pot of sights and sounds; the busy waterways and markets; the contrasts between rich and poor; and the political and diplomatic haunts of consulates, hotels and private parties. The characterisation is keenly observed, especially Leon Bauer, who is given the unenviable task of keeping alive a war criminal, someone hated by the Jews he helps rescue, and who finds himself caught in both a political drama and an unfolding romance. The plot is intricately woven and as the story unfolds Kanon ratchets up the tension, performs twist after twist, and shifts the moral terrain. Indeed, with regards to the latter, the story poses questions about obligation, duty and loyalty in relation to work, family and strangers. The result is a thoughtful and engaging page-turner. It certainly whetted my appetite for his other books.