My Name is Red

I am a Murder Mystery.

I am a murder mystery, but because I won a Nobel Prize for Literature, you won’t find me consorting with the other murder mysteries. I’m far too refined to associate with that vulgar mob of books which may be higher or lower in the literary hierarchy than science fiction. In fact, I think there is little to choose between them, although I’m digressing. Instead, you’ll find me with the other books which are regarded as literarily worthy. There’s Jane Austen over there, and Charles Dickens a little closer. (He was in an episode of Dr Who, so he must be quite famous.) There’s some guy called Amis who’s so worthy that the University of Manchester is prepared to pay him £3,000 an hour. These are the books beside which I stand. Let me tell you a little about myself.

I am set in late 16th century Istanbul. Someone has murdered Elegant Effendi, one of the Sultan’s master miniaturists, and then murders Enishte Effendi who is supervising the production of a book for the Sultan. Black and Master Osman have to find out who the culprit is or all of the miniaturists will be tortured; and if you’ve seen Midnight Express, you’ll know that life in a Turkish prison wasn’t a bunch of fun. At the same time, Black is trying to win over Shekure, Enishte Effendi’s daughter, whose husband is probably dead. With a little legal sleight of hand, he eventually marries her, although there is a threat from her brother-in-law, Hasan. Meanwhile, after a search for vital evidence in the form of a weirdly-nostrilled horse, Black and Master Osman identify the likely murderer who, if you must know, is Olive. It seems that he manages to escape only to have a chance encounter with Hasan who, ironically, snicks his head off.

I could be quite an interesting tale, but I’m not really told in an interesting way. Where a murder mystery might be hurried and suspenseful, I’m slow and languid, especially during the search through the books in the Sultan’s treasury, and then end rather abruptly and, as I said, ironically. I constantly repeat myself – miniaturists must go blind; Allah perceives the world differently from humans; painting in the European style, perspective and all, is just too dreadful to contemplate and sinful. In truth, I’m probably an allegory about modern Turkey and its relationship with Europe.

Of course you should buy me. I won a Nobel Prize and I am quite a literary turn. But just as that German prince told Mozart that there were too many notes, so people might say that I have too many words. I’m sure they wouldn’t, though. I did win a Nobel Prize after all.

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