Deadline Istanbul is an intriguing blend of mystery and travelogue, taking readers through the streets of Turkey and introducing a new female detective to the literary scene – Elizabeth Darcy, a Washington. D.C.-based newspaper reporter sent to cover the Turkish beat for her colleague and almost-lover Peter Franklin, whose body has been found, an apparent drug overdose.
But Elizabeth thinks his death was a murder and sets out to prove it, if she can survive being followed by menacing strangers, finding a dead body or two, and narrowly escaping gunshots and bomb attacks. Coincidence, or all part of a bigger picture that may tie the events to Peter Franklin’s death?
She’ll encounter illegal drug dealers, a terrorist group named the Silver Wolves, and officials who may or may not be what they seem.
This all makes for interesting reading and first-time mystery novelist Peggy Hanson weaves the tale together admirably. She’s spent time in exotic countries such as Turkey as part of the Peace Corps and later as a correspondent on international radio’s “Voice of America.” Her knowledge of worldly travel is quite evident.
There is also a sense of humor bubbling just beneath her surface, beginning with her character’s name and penchant for reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, featuring her namesake, Elizabeth Darcy. But make no mistake – despite this hint at humor and the colorfully homespun cover art by author Hanson’s daughter Anne, this is not a “cozy mystery” in any sense of the word. Yet the book is also not in the genre of James Patterson or Tony Hillerman, either. It’s rather caught in the middle – not quite light reading, yet not full-throttle mystery and suspense. This doesn’t make the book less entertaining – it’s just hard to pinpoint its “voice.” Author Hanson has other books in the making and perhaps this will more clearly establish the direction of the series.
One of the difficulties in a book set in a foreign country is the necessary use of names (people and places) that are next to impossible to pronounce or relate to, which makes them hard to remember. Deadline Istanbul features quite a large cast of characters but it takes a bit of time to keep track of them, partly because they are not easily identifiable. This is no way makes the book not worth reading – it’s well worthwhile. It is just not an easy reading experience, despite an intriguing story. As Elizabeth Darcy progresses in the next two installments, Deadline Yemen and Deadline Indonesia, it will be exciting to see how the series plays out and how Peggy Hanson, already clearly a talented writer, makes a place for herself in the mystery genre.
Published simultaneously at http://www.bookpleasures.com.