January 15, 2012


by Laurence O’Bryan
432 pages, Avon

Review by J. S. Colley

I entered a contest on HarperCollins’ website authonomy.com to receive a proof copy of The Istanbul Puzzle—and I won! Yeah, me! It was doubly nice as I love puzzles and my guilty pleasure has always been religious conspiracy-theory thrillers. This one certainly didn’t disappoint. The book is due to be released the middle of this month, so this is a pre-publication review.

Just as riots break out in London after a minor incident at a local mosque, Sean Ryan learns his partner and co-founder of The Institute of Applied Research, Alex Zegliwski, has been brutally murdered while on assignment in Istanbul. Alex has no next of kin and so the police ask Sean to come to Turkey to identify the body. Once there, Sean meets Isabel Sharp, Alex’s liaison officer at the British Consulate, when she saves Sean from meeting the same fate as his partner. Isabel is not only investigating Alex’s beheading, but also recent chatter on the Internet that threatens to “bring Armageddon to London.”

Is Alex’s death, the riots, and the chatter all connected? The only clue to the mystery surrounding Alex’s death is an envelope containing a USB memory stick and some blown-up photos of mosaics. Who is the enemy and who is the ally? The reader is left guessing. This book does what a thriller is supposed to do—keep the reader on edge with every turn of the page. The Istanbul Puzzle weaves elements together in a plot that is very believable in the current political/religious climate. 

What makes this book even more enjoyable is Laurence O’Bryan’s knowledge of Istanbul, which is obvious in his descriptive passages of the city. O’Bryan evokes all the senses, and makes the reader feel as if he/she is right there. I like to learn something when reading a novel—even a thriller—and this book did not disappoint. I feel as if I’ve visited the city and the beautiful Hagia Sophia, the church that had “once been the Islamic world’s St. Peter’s.”

I’m eagerly anticipating O’Bryan’s next novel in the series titled, The Jerusalem Puzzle. He also has a website where he posts puzzles related to the book. What fun!

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