Friday, March 25, 2011

The Winter Thief by Jenny White

book cover

The Winter Thief
by Jenny White

ISBN-13: 978-0-393-33884-3
Trade Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton
Released: February 21, 2011

Source: Unrequested review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
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.

My Review:
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.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Christmas Day, January 6, 1888

The elderly publisher put on his spectacles to examine the enameled pin in his hand. It displayed a symbol of broken chains draped across a sword, an ax, and a red flag. He handed the pin back to the young woman as if it were poison.

Vera had gotten lost in the twisted lanes leading to Bab-i Ali, the publishing district, and ended up down by the harbor, then had to work her way back up the hill on the boulevard, where she might be seen. But she had been late for her meeting with the publisher and didn't want to risk getting lost again.

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fredamans said...

Fantastic review! Sounds like a fascinating book! Love the cover too!

Genre Reviewer said...

Thanks! And it is a fascinating book. :)

Laura Fabiani said...

I feel the same as you about reading books that are too dark. Sometimes we're just not in the mood, although the setting sounds amazing. I love historical novels set in different countries rather than just England.

Genre Reviewer said...


I'm glad I read the book because the excellent writing and the setting made it worth it. I've read other reviews saying that the previous books in the series--with the same setting--were less depressing. Maybe you'd want to try one of them instead of starting with this one. :)