Sunday, June 24, 2012

Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon

Place: Istanbul, Turkey
Time: 1945

Businessman and sometimes undercover agent and courier for the United States war effort, Leon Bauer is drawn into the increasingly complex post-war era of the emerging Cold War. Joseph Kanon, author of the bestseller The Good German, titles his new book Istanbul Passage. The title could refer not only to Istanbul’s historic, geographic location at the mouth of the Bosphorus, but also to the twists and turns Leon Bauer takes as he tries to navigate the world of espionage. He is faced with choices, dilemmas, dangers and various layers of allegiances, some kept, many broken. Although untrained in the world of deception, Bauer is adept in adjusting to each change. In the course of things he has changed. He has tried to do the right thing in spite of having only bad options and choices available. In the end he realizes he is not the same man he was when he first came to Istanbul with his wife some years before.

Having lived in Turkey for two years and visited Istanbul, I could appreciate Kanon’s depictions and details of the city. Like a complicated pattern of a Turkish carpet the story weaves local color with the twisted scruples of various characters as well as the blighted nature of a world emerging from war and knotting itself even tighter into a new one. Critics have rightly compared Kanon to authors John Le CarrĂ© and Graham Greene. Istanbul Passage provides intrigue and action as well as thought.

C. C.

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