Another job for Levent Pasha, his friend joining him as they drink by the Golden Horn of Istanbul. He is anxious, eager to get back to his son, Mehmet. Dulled by the Raki, he takes to the job, alone, sluggish. His mistakes have piled up and he is caught for the last time. His friend, back from drinks, is made a part of the plan to tie up the loose end of the fool’s life and, the next day, Mehmet is left without a father.
With no family left to rely on, Mehmet must rely on himself in the dirty, vibrant streets of Istanbul. His father wasn’t perfect, terrifying perhaps, but he looked out for him, taught him things he didn’t always want to learn, or even realize he was learning. When told his drunken, womanizing father has given him up, Mehmet takes an offer he can’t refuse. As time goes on, he comes to realize the truth of his father’s life, his death, and the very real nemesis that has set him on a path of destruction in a new thriller by Rik Stone, The Turkish Connection: A Birth of an Assassin Novel.
The Turkish Connection is the second book of the Birth of an Assassin series, which has so far focused on the stories of young boys pulled into difficult, bloodstained lives by dark figures and deadly deeds on the edge of their daily existences. While the previous installment focused on post-war Soviet Russia, The Turkish Connection makes use of the murky, dusty, yet often-underestimated and rich setting of 1950s Istanbul, and does so with some eminence. The historical setting is fairly unique, and lavished in, for as little lavish the streets afford Mehmet, full of local detail that suggests a great deal of research.
Mehmet is a strong character, made so by necessity. While he is constantly evolving and hardening from his naive, youthful mindset, the cold, regrettable nature of his path is a constant note played in the background of his story as he struggles with his actions. His emotions are slowly cauterized by self-preservation, leading to tragic conclusions. Nonetheless, he remains deeply connected to the world around him as he mingles with the culture and backstreet society of his home.
Stone is an author who understands difficulty, especially those mountains and amassing molehills posed by growing up in poverty. Finding his own way out, he is now in retirement as he pursues his ambitions in writing in a professional capacity. His experience clearly lends itself to the book, and the final product is exceptional, both in its quietly evocative writing and its well-developed setting and character.
A few small points stand out as corrigible: while the previous book in the series sported a beautiful cover, The Turkish Connection seems lacking in comparison, albeit still above standard. The ending does pull up sharply, though remains satisfying overall. These are small points to mention in an otherwise fine book, which will hopefully see another episode in the series with due time.
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