Anyone who has been in Turkey longer than a few weeks knows that Turks are the Sultans of conspiracy theories. Throw out any topic and a true Turk will tell you the conspiracy theory for why it happened.
Case in point #1 from one of my Turkish friends: Did you know that the Swine Flu was actually started by the pharmaceutical companies because they did not make enough money for the medicines they created to treat Bird Flu?
Case in point #2: Many Turks believe that Fetullah Gulen and the ruling AK Party are putting on a secular/democratic face to gain enough power to implement their true desire and destiny, which is to rule Turkey (and the world?) with Islamic Shariah Law. If you do not believe me just ask a secular Turk.
A Deceit to Die For is based on the conspiracy theory in point #2.
What if it is true?
Go back a few hundred years, analyze the historical implications of the failed Ottoman empire, ponder the glory they held at one point as the most powerful empire in Europe, recognize that the Turks are their unconquered children, throw in some cool technology, an ancient document that should have been destroyed but survived, a dose of religious zeal, and an unsuspecting family caught in the middle of the metaphorical hurricane, and you have Montgomery’s first novel.
Depending on your historical knowledge you may find some parts of the book a bit tedious as the characters spend a good bit of time explaining the research they are doing to learn about their serendipitous enemy. The reader is learning along with the characters. For some this will be tiresome, but for most western readers who have little knowledge of Ottoman history, it is necessary. I expect Montgomery had to make difficult decisions regarding how much he needed to explain and what he could assume his readers would know.
Let me ask you a few questions:
* What do you know about the Gospel of Barnabas?
* Who were the Moriscos and what role did they play in the Spanish Inquisition?
* How far did the Ottoman army advance in Europe and what were the results?
If you can answer these questions easily, then you will probably find much of the book boring, but if, like most native English speaking non-Muslims, you are clueless regarding these events, the historical discussions will make the book more meaningful. Regardless, Montogomery is at his best during the action and suspense sequences. For the last 100 pages I was literally shaking as I read and could not put the book down. The ending leaves many questions unanswered which is fitting given the story and the world it portrays.
Some reviewers on Amazon say that you need to get past the first 50 pages and then the story picks up. I did not find that to be the case. However, I expect that if you prefer your stories to start with heart-pounding, bomb exploding action, then you will be disappointed, but I personally prefer the subtle mystery with which Montgomery introduces the reader to the characters and the plot. I connected with the characters and was emotionally involved with all of them – the “good”, the “bad”, and those whose motives are blurry.
While reading this novel I went back and forth as to whether I should recommend it. It would be a perfect story for a discussion group mixed with conservatives, liberals, Christians, Muslims, and secularist/atheists. The view is a bit slanted, although some would argue that it is realistic. In the end I am happy to recommend it, but the reader should be forewarned that the plot deals with significant Muslim-Christian, East-West issues from a more conservative slant.
I agree with one reviewer on Amazon who noted that the Christians are pretty much all good while the Muslims are almost all bad. Although, given the number of storylines, I am not sure how the author could have introduced a group of “good” Muslims without making the story more convoluted. And this gives room for more discussion. You will have to decide for yourself and let us know.
Are you interested in other Turkey-related books? Check these out:
Once There Was, Twice There Wasn’t: Fifty Turkish Folktales of Nasreddin Hodja by Michael Shelton
Culture Smart! Turkey & Culture Shock! Turkey by Charlotte McPherson & Arın Bayraktaroğlu respectively
The New Turkey: The Quiet Revolution on the Edge of Europe by Chris Morris
The Visitor: A Stranger, A Message, A Clash of Cultures by Peter Pikkert
Cappadocia Travel Guide by Oberheu & Wadenpohl
Turkish Alevis Today by John Shindeldecker
The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk
Crescent and Star by Stephen Kinzer
Ataturk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey by Andrew Mango
The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire by Lord Kinross
A Fez of the Heart: Travels around Turkey in Search of a Hat By Jeremy Seal
29 Books Related to Turkey: A Reading List
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