Istanbul Passage, by Joseph Kanon. I like this guy’s work, though as with all mysteries for me, the plots fade. I especially loved Kanon’s Los Alamos, of which I remember only the hothouse atmosphere around the scientists and their wives, drawn together in secrecy and terror as the atomic bomb was coming to pass on their watch, with a compelling love story thrown in.
The plot device of Istanbul Passage is the transfer of a mysterious figure out of post-WWII Europe to the U.S. through Istanbul—and the city is as important a character as any of the humans in the book—located on the Golden Horn where the Europe and Asia meet. Leon Bauer, narrator and hero, is an American businessman, sympathetic to the remnants of European Jewry—exhausted, traumatized, poor and hungry—piled into a boat stalled by the Turkish bureaucracy, unable to set sale for Palestine.
The book begins with a killing, of course, this one with the narrator as startled shooter, and the corpse an American diplomat whose presence at the scene is even more of a surprise. This leads to endless labyrinthine intrigue within the diplomatic corps, against the backdrop of not one, but two–even three–quite wonderful love stories, also starring our weary protagonist.
There is his love for his wife, who is under the spell of unending melancholia. There is his intense attraction for the wife of yet another American diplomat. And there is his interaction with a prostitute, which managed to touch this reader’s heart as well. So, murder, intrigue, love, Turkish police, Turkish emniyet (Turkey’s governmental intelligence agency between 1926-1965) , Jewish refugees, Russian nefariousness, middle-European tenacity—who could ask for more?