Turkey, that mercurial country that bisects Western Europe from Asia, for centuries a crucial player in world history, constantly aligning and realigning its allegiances, loyalties, friends and enemies. A hot bed of political intrigue throughout its history. Thanks to some great diplomacy Turkey remained neutral during WWII, but this in turn made it honey pot for all manner of war flotsam and jetsam after the war - ex Nazis fleeing, Russians on the prowl, Jewish looking to escape to Palestine, Americans re-establishing trade and diplomatic networks, spies everywhere facilitating information and money exchanges between all these parties, Turkish police and secret service trying to protect their own interests amongst all this. A breeding ground for intrigue, secret meetings and liaisons, espionage, treason, against the exotic, sensuous backdrop of this ancient city.  The cover is fantastic, evoking superbly the atmosphere of the narrative.

In this murky, post apocalyptic world lives Leon Bauer, an American expat who works as a tobacco rep. He has lived in Istanbul for quite some time, knows the city inside and out, speaks Turkish, and has been doing his patriotic duty in a casual haphazard manner for his pals in the US Embassy - envelope drops and pick ups and the like. A spy, but not a spy. And on a more personal note helping out with refugees Jews getting to Palestine. He is married to Anna, a German Jew herself who managed to escape Germany during the war, but is now lying in a hospital bed, in a coma like state due to her involvement with refugees in a ship that sank. In Leon's daily life, where you never who know can be trusted, who is a spy, who wants something from you, who in actual fact you really are yourself, his devotion to his wife is the only constant in his life, and which he hangs onto desperately.

As a final favour to one of his old friends at the US Embassy, he reluctantly agrees to help smuggle out of Istanbul a Romanian on the run from the Russians, who has a bunch of secrets to share with the Americans in return for his escape. Everything goes spectacularly pear shaped, leaving Leon with the sole responsibility to determine what to do with this man, who like everyone  else is not what he claims to be, how to get him out, and eventually to save himself.  This is classic spy thriller stuff, almost up there, for me, with John Le Carre, but not quite....! The twists and turns are very impressive, there are plenty of moral and ethical dilemmas, Leon out does himself as a man alone, in fact completely wasted as a tobacco rep. Surely the author has lived in this city, he knows and describes it so intimately and lushly, The city is actually the true star of the book. I just want to get on a plane and go. I really liked this, my only criticism being that it was a bit long, especially in the long meandering conversations that take place. I don't think the book would have suffered at all being 100 pages shorter. 

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