The Istanbul Puzzle by Laurence O’Bryan
A brutal murder. An ancient temple. A long-lost treasure.
Buried deep under Istanbul, a secret is about to resurface with explosive consequences…
Sean Ryan arrives in the ancient city to identify the body of his friend and colleague Alek Zegliwski. Alek has been savagely beheaded, his body discovered near the sacred archaeological sit of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Aided by British diplomat Isabel Sharp, Sean inches closer to snaring Alek’s assassin. Evil is at work and when a lethal virus is unleashed on the city panic spreads fast. Time is running out for Sean and Isabel. They must catch the killer before it’s too late.
Sean and Isabel make a believable pairing, he is methodical and steadfastly refuses to walk away from the mystery surrounding his best friend’s murder while Isabel is tenacious and driven to help Sean discover the truth. Their separate strengths compliment one another and as the plot develops it’s nice to see the relationship that forms between them. You get a sense of the trust that they have in one another as they are flung from one desperate situation to another.
There is also just enough backstory included for the reader to appreciate that these individuals are, in their own way, quite fragile. It’s this additional level of characterisation that adds an extra depth to the narrative. Learning each of the protagonist’s fears and frailties makes them come across as a bit more human than your average thriller hero or heroine.
Its obvious that the author has a great deal of love for the novel’s main location. The descriptions of the city and its environs are temptingly evocative. Istanbul comes across as a city that is both steeped in history but is also firmly part of the 21st century. In addition to that, you’ll get a sense of the clash of cultures that exists there. The political and religious groups that make up parts of the population feature quite strongly in the plot as it unfolds. Istanbul is a place where East truly meets West and O’Bryan’s writing deftly captures the sights and sounds of this international melting pot.
There are some fascinating political power plays going on behind the scenes of the main story and the reader gets just a glimpse of these. Personally, I have to admit that, it would have been nice to find out just a bit more. There are a couple of shadowy characters whose motivations are never fully explained. This is a minor gripe though, it is possible that this may be something that is picked up in future books as this is the first in a series.
The Istanbul Puzzle is a good antidote to any grey winter afternoon, you can almost feel the heat of the Grand Bazaar radiating from its pages. In this strong debut you’ll find a well-paced, intriguing thriller that delivers a satisfying plot and some top-notch action.
The Istanbul Puzzle is published by Avon Books and is available from the 19th January 2012. A second novel, The Jerusalem Puzzle, is due in 2013.