In Amberg’s (Bone Box, 2015, etc.) thriller, a bombing in Turkey intensifies a search among various parties for artifacts and an ancient villa that reputedly houses a treasure.
An Islamic State group’s attack at the acropolis in Bergama, Turkey, kills numerous tourists and devastates the citizens. Tuğçe Iskan’s boss at the Ministry of Culture in Ankara sends her to investigate. Inside the pocket of the bombing’s sole survivor, Tuğçe finds a Roman coin dating back to the second century, when famed physician and philosopher Galen was alive. A year ago, Tuğçe’s former colleague at the Ministry, Özlem Boroğlu, got her hands on an original letter written by Galen. But Özlem’s refusal to give the document to her superiors eventually led to her job termination. Meanwhile, the Hamit family, wealthy antiques dealers known for stealing artifacts and bullying or killing competitors, believe the letter reveals the location of the treasured Galen cache. Their search ultimately involves Özlem’s son, Serkan, a failed tour guide peddling antiquities to foreigners, and her daughter, Elif, whose sculptures often account for Serkan’s sales. The Hamits also implicitly threaten the Boroğlu family, who soon suspect the villainous Hamits of being responsible for a second bombing in Turkey. Though Amberg introduces a multitude of characters, short chapters and concise backstories keep the pace brisk. The author shines at creating distinctive characters. Elif and others, for example, conduct a ritual to remember lost lives, which is a striking contrast to others who use the “Bergama Bombing” to boost their political careers. Moreover, Amberg deftly shows how viewing unfamiliar cultures as exotic can be insensitive; Özlem confronts a crass British photographer who thinks nothing of snapping pictures of praying mourners in Bergama.
A large, memorable cast augments this dramatic mystery/thriller.