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White, Jenny. The sultan's seal.

WHITE, Jenny. The sultan's seal. Norton. 351p. c2006.0-393-32920-8. $13.95. A

This novel is all about its setting--Istanbul in 1866. The Ottoman Empire is in its last days and the traditions and way of life it represents are eroding around the edges. When a young Englishwoman's body is found washed ashore, the authorities become involved in solving her murder. This leads to a renewed interest in another Englishwoman's murder years before and to the inner workings of Turkish society. Both women had worked as governesses for high-ranking Turkish officials.

The unusual pendant bearing the Sultan's seal that both murdered victims wear ties them to Turkish inner circles, where the investigators encounter young women who seem to know more than they're telling about the murders. The author sometimes seems to forget that there is a mystery to be solved as the intrigues of society and the fate of its young women, some of whom still want to live in the old ways and others who are rebelling against arranged marriages and the inequities between men and women, become her focus. The young Turkish woman Janeen, who is resisting marriage to a man who rapes her but is her family's choice, is the symbol of the corruption of the old society. Although the story is complicated and confusing in parts, the writing is good and the setting makes this an interesting tale about the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. Nola Theiss, Sanibel, FL

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Author:Theiss, Nola
Date:Jul 1, 2007
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