The body of a young Englishwoman washes up in Istanbul wearing a pendant inscribed with the seal of the deposed sultan. The death resembles the unsolved murder of another Englishwoman, 10 years before. A magistrate in the new secular courts, Kamil Pasha, sets out to find the killer, but his dispassionate belief in science and modernity is shaken by betrayal and widening danger. In a mystical voice, a young Muslim woman recounts her own relationship with one of the dead women and with the suspected killer. Were these political murders involving the palace or crimes of personal passion?
Rich in sensuous detail, this novel of faith and desire brilliantly captures the political and social upheavals of the waning Ottoman Empire and the contradictory desires of the human soul.