This deceptive novel begins as an idyllic romance, then gears down and races to a gripping conclusion.
With a title that alludes to Othello and Desdemona, Qazi’s (Berlin Danse Macabre, 2013, etc.) novel tells the story of Robert, an American professor whose best years (and two marriages) are behind him, and Anara, a Kazakh woman half his age. They fall in love, and soon after, Robert gets yet another one-year teaching job, this time at a university in Kyrenia, a Turkish-controlled part of Cyprus. Anara comes to join him, and they make a home, almost a bower, in Karmi, a village halfway up the mountain overlooking Kyrenia. This is the idyllic part: Readers are introduced to secondary characters, among them Cardiff, the alcoholic but wise British colleague; Yulie, a young Greek woman who has strong hidden feelings for Robert; Erkan Bey, who is more than just a plumber; and other well-rounded background characters. But then there are the shady characters, principally Vitaly, a porcine, oily Russian casino owner. The plot turns on a simple fact: Anara’s visa is only for 60 days. Vitaly hires Anara to work in his casino and promises that the visa issue will no longer be a problem. All of a sudden, Vitaly has tricked Anara into working—for just one night, or so he says—at his other casino in the Greek sector. The rest of the book, where Qazi ramps up the story, concerns Robert’s desperate attempt to get Anara back. The story is told from Robert’s point of view, so readers get to know this man who just might have a second chance at life. The other characters are well-drawn, too, and Cyprus—beautiful, laid-back, exotic—is a character in its own right. The narrative makes no major missteps, though in places, the prose, if not purple, may be a bit mauve. Qazi, an experienced writer, is very good at his craft, and the pacing is really a wonder. Readers might find themselves putting off the last three chapters to savor them as a special treat.
A gripping, well-written story worth diving into.