Tumbler (The Inlooker, 2014, etc.) presents more globe-trotting adventures in his latest novel—this time set in Turkey.
Retired detective Terry Tumbler and his wife, Sandra, are British expatriates living in Spain. Last summer, their grandson, Seb Cage, enrolled in a school run by the philanthropic Sombrella Syndicate, which brought him to Turkey for a special mission. Recently, Terry has been hearing a strange voice in his head telling him to return to Turkey. His Sombrella contact, Skip, suggests that he and Sandra take the trip on the Syndicate’s dime as its emissaries. While touring Turkey’s archaeological and religious attractions, the Tumblers meet Senator Marius, who, it turns out, has been speaking to Terry telepathically. He asks them to report any extremist behavior they might witness in their travels. Soon, the Tumblers find an anonymous scroll that decries the mutilation of people and animals by extraterrestrials (one of Terry’s favorite research topics). At the same time, Terry experiences flashbacks to the life of a 12th-century monk named Gregory, who’s on the run from Turkish warriors. The book’s first portion ends with a shocking revelation from Marius; in the second half, set two years later, the Tumblers and several of their friends tour Turkey in a cushy, futuristic coach known as the Magic Carpet. Further surprises await, especially for fans of the author’s previous Seb Cage novel. This work boasts many of Tumbler’s signature traits, including close attention to historical detail (“The word Byzantine came to have special meaning, being synonymous with intrigue, cunning, deception, greed, and corruption”) and bawdy humor; for example, the protagonist's consistently wily behavior gets him mistaken for a “typical Australian.” There’s even traveling advice, as when Sandra tells her husband, “Just ignore [the vendors] and they’ll get fed up.” The narrative’s main drawback, however, is Terry's frequent complaining about food, travel time, and other issues. That said, an imaginative finale redeems the journey, featuring technological wonders and the truth about Earth’s alien visitors.
somewhat cranky fictional travelogue that gives way to a charming sci-fi