Istanbul Passage
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Istanbul Passage

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3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  1,892 ratings  ·  430 reviews
A neutral capital straddling Europe and Asia, Istanbul survived the Second World War as a magnet for refugees and spies, trafficking in secrets and lies rather than soldiers. Expatriate American businessman Leon Bauer was drawn into this shadow world, doing undercover odd jobs and courier runs in support of the Allied war effort.
Now, as the espionage community begins to pa...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published May 29th 2012 by Atria Books
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Community Reviews

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Peter
A book I was savoring... it's that good.
There are parallels to Graham Greene and John le Carre here... more of the former compared to the latter, with a bit of Jenkens thrown in. The fantastic never happens, the predictable occurs (and because this is a thriller you may hope it does not)- but the characters are so well rounded, so deeply camouflaged from themselves, as the Californians out there may say "conflicted," that all the story (and I mean all apart from solid history) is character drive...more
Rhiannon
It was only ok. I was going on holiday to Istanbul and wanted something to read. I thought this would be perfect - a thriller le Carre style set in the very city I was visiting. Well, I enjoyed the referneces to the Hagia Sophia and the Mosque of Suleyman the Magnificent, the crossing of the Golden Horn and the fishermen on the Galata Bridge. All that rang true.
I could not, however, get on board with Kanon's style of writing. It read like a movie script, or should I say, a wannabe movie script....more
Cathi Davis
A John LeCarre wanna be, but the character is not as complex as George Smiley. Not sure I even like the main character or his "love interest." The most compelling character is his brain addled wife, but, unfortunately she does little except provide a room for exposition. How could an accidental spy be so good at what is portrayed in other books as a craft? It kind of demeans the whole profession and makes it seem like any intelligent person could double deal, elude tails, create alibis, etc. I d...more
Candace
Just when you think you have heard every horror of World War II, Joseph Kanon tells you about Străuleşti. In earlier thrillers like “The Good German” and “Los Alamos” Kanon has gone to unexplored corners of the war experience and turned them into exceptionally atmospheric novels. “Istanbul Passage” covers the period right after the war when government intelligence networks were being dismantled, but new alliances were forming to smuggle Jews to Palestine and bring people with certain knowledge t...more
Mal Warwick
Intrigue, Romance, and Betrayal in Post-World War II Istanbul

Some books build slowly, and just as you begin to wonder whether you have the energy to finish them, you discover you’re a captive and no longer able to put them aside. Then they build and build, until you find yourself on the last page, out of breath from the frenzied rush to the end. Istanbul Passage is one of those books.

Kanon, born in 1946, writes spy stories about the period immediately following World War II and before the Korean...more
Judith Starkston
Hard to imagine any other setting for Kanon’s historical thriller, Istanbul Passage. Post World War II spy intrigues, war criminals seeking new friends, allegiances shifting yet again between America and Russia, battered Jews looking for refuge, illicit romance, the legacy of harems and the labyrinthine streets opening onto the wide waterway connecting two continents. Where better than Istanbul to depict the mire of ambiguous compromises, the sinuous balancing of countries against each other by...more
Gregory Lamb
The period and setting for this novel was captivating enough to keep me reading in spite of the novel's slow pace. Kanon's story takes place almost entirely in Istanbul with the exception of the few forays, the main character Leon Bauer makes aboard a fishing vessel and later aboard a transport ship carrying jewish refugees to Palestine.

Kanon's sense of place and knowledge of Istanbul, especially during those nostalgic years after WWII puts the reader in every passage. Though the story's pace wa...more
David
Really a fine novel here. And I love titles that have 2 (or in this case at least 3) different meanings. But, pay attention when reading! The thoughts expressed on the page shift from action to dialog to the protagonist's inner thoughts without warning and sometimes in the same paragraph ...

An analogy comes to mind that may help out this review - in all of the superhero (e.g. Spiderman) movies, I'm always most interested in the episodes where they first discover and experiment with their super p...more
DR
Joseph Kanon has set several previous novels in mid- or late 1940s, which plays to one of his most tangible strengths--convincingly depicting a place and time almost frozen in amber. His plots also have picked up a fraught event in history (e.g., the Manhattan Project in LOS ALAMOS, post-war U.S. occupation in THE GOOD GERMAN and the growing anti-Communist hysteria in Hollywood in STARDUST) and put convincingly real characters, men and women, in motion in that specific and tense historical conte...more
Mark

All right, I'm officially a convert. This is my first experience of Joseph Kanon, and it was well worth it.

If you are going to write about the morally ambiguous world of spycraft but also give readers someone to root for, you need an author who can create characters who may never be what they seem, yet have some endearing qualities -- even if, as in one case in this novel, they happen to be a former Nazi-ally butcher of Jews.

The story revolves around Leon Bauer, an American businessman (tobacc...more
Trish
A man, filled with good intentions, is caught in the jaws of the competing and intersecting interests of global powers in Istanbul after World War II. Istanbul is the bridge between north and south in Europe, and between West and East. It has always been a place of great intrigue and mystery, filled with industrialists and spies. By setting his mystery here after the war, Kanon capitalizes on the reader’s sense of dislocation. We are familiar with the war, but we know little about what happened...more
Eastbelt
I admire Kanon's novels; at his best as in "The Good German" he combines suspense, interesting characters and a great gift for background and setting. While "Istanbul Passage" is good at providing an interesting and unusual historical context (Istanbul in 1945, sending Jewish refugees to Palestine, and the start of the Cold War), this book gets off to a rather slow start, with a lot of meandering dialogue. A major problem with the book is its style - an excess of terse, clipped, narrative and di...more
Paul Pessolano
“Istanbul Passage” by Joseph Kanon, published by Atria Books.

Category – Mystery/Thriller

If you are looking for a really, really good spy novel “Istanbul Passage” will satisfy all spy aficionados. There is no better place, today or back in the 1940’s, for a spy novel than Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul straddles the Bosphorus, one side Asia, the other side Europe. It has always been a hotbed for spies, Russian, American, British, and just about every other country. The Turks were, and still are very...more
Lily
Oct 03, 2013 Lily rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Mystery, Holocaust history, Istanbul fans
Recommended to Lily by: F2F book group
Shelves: book-club
Okay -- I must be on my one of my "softie" streaks -- two 4 star books within a few days.

But any book that compels me enough to read it in two days tends to beg for one more star than that three star midpoint. On that basis alone, Istanbul Passage is getting my nod.

I don't read this genre a lot -- mystery, crime, adventure -- not sure where the categorization pros slot this one. Thus, I'm not sure how well the writing stands up to those standards. I did find the phrases (versus sentences) discon...more
John Brooke
If you like Alan Furst (and you should!) you will probably like this.

Author Joseph Kanon sets his story in Istanbul directly after WW2. Leon Bauer ostensibly works for an American tobacco company while doing clandestine early Cold War work for the US consulate and caring for his wife, a German Jew who has been traumatized by a disastrous experience working to move refugees through Turkey to Israel. This story revolves around a similar project, with Leon stuck in the middle of one, then two murde...more
Gerald
Masterfully plotted, a real cork-screw. And set in one of the most fascinating cities on the planet. Thematically deep, with an added patina of moral murkiness painted over a flimsy network of complicated spy-thriller betrayals. The prose a bit too plain for my taste, but that's a quibble. Kanon is a Graham Greene for the American empire.
Susan Springer
Kanon's writing is exceptional: the story is cleverly driven through dialogue and leaves the reader questioning up to the last page. His descriptions of Istanbul confirm my excitement for seeing it all in August.
Victor Carson
I picked up a copy of Istanbul Passage during an Amazon Kindle sale and held the copy for awhile, to read as a mental release after finishing a more challenging literary novel. I liked the setting, in Istanbul in late 1945, just after the end of World War II in Europe, while Jewish survivors of the death camps in Romania, Poland, and Germany tried to reach Palestine, through British blockades. I saw that this novel was fairly new but that the author, Joseph Kanon, had written several other espio...more
Rob Kitchin
In Istanbul Passage Kanon envelopes the reader in the city in the immediate post-war era - a city on the fulcrum between East and West in a country seeking to remain somewhat neutral in the coming cold war. Kanon expertly recreates its cultural landscape and sense of place - the melting pot of sights and sounds; the busy waterways and markets; the contrasts between rich and poor; and the political and diplomatic haunts of consulates, hotels and private parties. The characterisation is keenly obs...more
Agnes Benis
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David Madden
Obviously, Joseph Kanon so loves Istanbul that he could not resist moving his protagonist back and forth all over the city. Everyone who goes there loves that city. For anyone who has not yet gone there, Kanon’s love will set you down walking on Galata Bridge, breathing the air sweeping over the Golden Horn from the Bosphorus strait. Inside, front and back, a very effective two-page map shows where we are. Never mind that the time frame is wartime early 1940’s.

But Istanbul Passage is less a tra...more
Carla Hund
Fast-paced and involving, Istanbul Passage gives an "insiders view" of life at the end of World War II as seen thru the eyes of Leon Bauer, and American living in Turkey who is thrust into a dangerous and complicated web of deceit that his job as a "part time" spy has not prepared him for. Used to "routine" assignments-helping to transport refugees from Nazi occupied countries-Leon learns in a split second that even his closest friends are not who they seem to be, and then tries to navigate a wo...more
Nan
American Leon Bauer is mourning his mad wife and the end of the war as he goes about his daily business as a tobacco rep in Istanbul in 1945. He's agreed to perform one more covert errand for a friend in the American consulate--these harmless missions help Leon feel involved in the war effort (he failed the physical to actually serve). When this last one goes wrong and he ends up killing the agent who hired him, he's launched on a roller-coaster of choices that must be made in an environment of...more
Mark Gilroy
Istanbul in World War II? Whose side were they on? Allies or Axis? No peeking!

I'll admit, until I picked up Kanon's post WWII novel I didn't know either. As a city straddling two continents with competing histories from the East and West, no surprise they were neutral.

Their geography also made it not surprising that they were a shipping and smuggling center for both sides. I was surprised to learn that for much of WWII they were the safest transfer link in smuggling Jews from Europe to Palestine...more
John
Note to readers: What follows are most impressions rather than conventional book review. Also be aware of spoilers.

This is my first book by Joseph Kanon and it compares very favorably with the other espionage novels I’ve read. At least in respect to the setting, it reminds me of Alan Furst’s Night Soldiers series, taking place Istanbul, rather than on the front lines of the major players. The twists and turns of the story kept my attention. The phrase, “moral ambiguity”, is often used to describ...more
Tim
"What do you do when there's no right thing to do. Just the wrong thing."

Tough moral choices in a murky post-World War II (just barely) world in Istanbul, Turkey, are at the heart of this taut, atmospheric and ultimately terrific Cold War espionage tale from Joseph Kanon. There's an undeniable "Casablanca" sort of vibe going on here, with an attempt to smuggle a a man out of the country, wavering loyalties and a love affair. But "Istanbul Passage" is so much more.

Kanon keeps the tension tight th...more
Arthur
It's 1945 in Istanbul. The war's over and the cold war's not yet started. Leon is a stringer for a US intelligence group who delivered packages around Turkey during the war. His boss tells him that the operation's beig rolled up because the war's over, but there's one last job, to pick up a Romanian fascist defector who might be useful to the US. The operation goes badly wrong and Leon's asked to find the killer.

This is a delightfully engrossing noirish murder mystery. Plot twists and turns galo...more
Beth
ISTANBUL PASSAGE: A NOVEL by Joseph Kanon is historical fiction, and it’s a page turner. That’s because this book is also a thriller. Other people have tried it, combining historical fiction with a thriller, but no one in my experience does it like Kanon.

If you don’t know much about Turkey after World War II, you’re in for a learning experience because that’s when and where the story takes place. But, unlike some authors of this genre, you will never forget that this is also a thriller. Other au...more
Amina |  PAPER/PLATES
Istanbul Passage is a story that could feel very much like an action movie if it were not written with such empathy and human insight. Instead, it has the plot of a thriller with the styling of a noir, plus a real soul.

Leon Bauer, our protagonist, works for a large tobacco company where the most exciting part of his day is the view out the window. He watches the hustle and bustle of the city he’s come to call home. His “side projects” are far more interesting. For years, Leon has been helping th...more
Richard
I seem to be working my way up the ladder of espionage thrillers heading toward some re-readings of LeCarre and Graham Greene - the eagles. . I've been on an Alan Furst binge, and of the 10 or so titles I've read, two were extraordinary, the rest were what Holmes calls "reliable." The books have locked me into Central Europe, and the Balkans. Now onto Istanbul with Joseph Kanon.

Istanbul Passage isn't a light read. It's a story of innocence lost, and though the loss is personal, and beautifully w...more
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The Book Club: * Final Comments on Istanbul Passage and April Business 1 4 Apr 24, 2013 11:39AM  
The Book Club: * Istanbul Passage 5 3 Apr 18, 2013 08:51PM  
The Book Club: Chapter 1: Bebek (3 - 63) 20 3 Apr 16, 2013 09:07AM  
The Book Club: Chapter 6: Büyükada (283 - 341) 5 3 Mar 30, 2013 09:08AM  
The Book Club: Chapter 5: Üsküdar (225 -279) 2 1 Mar 30, 2013 08:35AM  
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