Kanon is one of the best and this is one of his best. I thoroughly enjoyed if from beginning to end. The sense of time and place is extraordinary. The plotting is suspenseful. You are drawn into a world of desperate people and deadly consequences.
Kanon has a powerful talent for bringing the atmosphere of the past to life. As with the best spy fiction, the story is not as much about spying but about humanity, and the choices that humans make when caught between loyalty and self-interest, between love and betrayal. The blacks and whites become grey in the moments between the hard choices, and in the repercussions from the first time killing a man, or sending another one to death.
Istanbul in the immediate aftermath of WW2 offers a rich canvas for Kanon to explore human choices.
It was a little heard to get into at first. THere were multiple character to keep track of. However, one you understood who the players were it became a good story. I visited Istanbul many years ago and I thought the prose was good. It reminded me of an Alan Furst novel. The ending is a good one. It is worth it to get bast the first 100 pages.
Reader's of Joseph Kanon's Istanbul Passage are provided with a detailed map of the Bosporus region and urban Istanbul of 1945. I wore out the book flipping back to see where I was. I was, nevertheless, still lost somewhat in the sea of characters and sentence fragments, the fog of history just prior to my childhood. Thrillers ought to be breathless and mysterious and Kanon manages both. I'm still in doubt, however, as to whether my muddle was the result of encroaching senility or a lack of clarity in the writing.
Istanbul Passage is set in post WWII Turkey as the spy networks switch into cold war mode. American Leon Bauer has been helping Jews escape Europe and now has to help someone who was complicit in the murder of Jews escape the Russians. However, it seems that everyone wants his charge dead. As with all good spy novels the betrayals are early and often. Kanon has created a decent man who is honour bound to look after his distasteful charge while being able to trust no one. I read Istanbul Passage right after Alan Furst’s Mission to Paris. They are interesting book ends to WWII era espionage.
A disappointment: a thoroughly competent detective story, but it didn't live up to the mystery and suspense promised by the jacket photo. I've been to the city, and the descriptive passages seem like tourist post-it notes rather than revealing the soul of Istanbul. The characters likewise are pretty standard issue and don't come near to engaging the history and psyche of the place. Not much suspense, either.
Sorry to say I just couldn't seem to get into this one :(
A good read. Some history woven in, good contrast in the types of American ex-pats.
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