Readers’ Favorite 2020 Book Award Winner, Fiction Cultural
A terrorist bombing in Bergama, Turkey kills twenty-three people including three children. Modern Bergama is built on the site of ancient Pergamon, a city whose art and wealth and culture rivaled Athens. It was also the home of the Aesklepion, the world’s greatest healing center, and the birthplace of Galen, the Roman Empire’s most famous doctor.
Tuğçe Iskan, a Turkish Ministry investigator, finds evidence that links the terrorism to a powerful criminal family and to Galen’s life and Pergamon’s lost treasures. But Iskan is alone, an outcast in the Ministry because she is honest, diligent, and a woman.
As Iskan delves more deeply into the heinous attack, she needs allies outside the Ministry. She must turn to Özlem Boroğlu, a local archeologist, and Boroğlu’s daughter Elif, an artist with an affinity for ancient Aegean goddesses. Can these three women defeat ISIL terrorists, criminal oligarchs, and corrupt officials? Can they even survive?
The Healer's Daughters is a compelling thriller which takes place around an ancient archaeological site, Bergama in Turkey. I was initially concerned that the story might veer too far towards the Indiana Jones adventure trope, but Amberg avoids such obvious pitfalls and, instead, delivers a complex and scarily plausible tale. The novel begins with a glimpse back to life in ancient Pergamon which helped me to understand the importance of what in the present day is hidden under the hills surrounding Bergama. There are only a few of these flashbacks so this isn't a dual timeline novel. Most of the story takes place in the present day where ISIL terrorist attacks are used as a cover for the looting of ancient graves with any discovered artefacts being sold on the black market to wealthy overseas collectors.
Amberg obviously has a great love for Turkey and Turkish culture. I appreciated the authenticity of minor details throughout the story such as the social rituals of serving tea and the importance of a shared cigarette break! The novel has a large cast so it took a while for all the characters to develop distinctive voices, but I generally felt as though each one was acting in a genuine way. I could always understand their motivations. Insights into the Boroglu family allowed me to see how the mother and daughter were in many ways very similar even though they had chosen different life paths. I liked the strong family resemblance in behaviour. I did feel as though The Healer's Daughters was as much a battle of the sexes novel as anything else. Certainly the greedy characters bent on pillaging the historic sites for personal gain seemed to be all male, whereas the characters for whom I found myself rooting were predominantly female.
This novel is an exciting thriller and I was pleased that Amberg didn't attempt to stretch credulity beyond what is believable within the context of this story. I thought The Healer's Daughters was a more gripping tale for its believability and I liked Amberg took the trouble to show the longterm pain and anguish of people directly affected by terrorist attacks. The Healer's Daughters has an emotional depth that appealed to me as a reader because I could empathise strongly with characters such as Elif, Ozlem and Tugce. I enjoyed this novel and would happily pick up more of Jay Amberg's work.
With the world so filled with news about terrorist attacks this novel brings to light much more. Osama Flynn is about to take the same ride that others have when they set off a bomb, kill innocent people and think they will be forever immortalized as a martyr. Author Jay Amberg takes us inside the mind of this man as he explains his plan, how it will be carried out and the vision that he feels the world deserves. The attack takes place in Turkey and Tugce Iskan is sent by the Ministry of Culture in Ankara as the person on point to find out the rationale and motive behind the attack. Her investigation moves slowly, and she learns one of the victims of the attack had an ancient gold coin on his body. Her thoughts go back to a document she was sent and to another time period. She realizes that this was a terrorist attack and was connected to the past related to artifacts of Galen a philosopher and architect from the second century who the author allows readers to get to know when flashing back to the past. The time period is the second century of the Common Era and what Iskan learns and uncovers does not allow her to learn what she hopes to as the obstacles placed in her path are many and the wall of silence tall. Iskan’s goal is to get the Galen cache. The investigation is broad and allows her to learn that her son might be linked to selling and dealing with the Hamit family who is in organized crime. His goal is selling artifacts to them and a retired archeologist called Ozlem who has in her possession the ancient Roman document that would verify this. This document is being hidden by Ozlem and the whereabouts of the ancient burial grounds replete with these treasures is unknown and hidden. The Hamit family wants it and is watching her every move.
An American couple has the Sekhmet amulet but is it authentic and dealing with Mustafa is dangerous as he is part of Hamit family, and his father is the patriarch and more deadly that most terrorists. Bora the nephew oversees the family’s current clandestine digs. Serkan is a social climber and wants to be part of the deal and will take any chances including jeopardizing his family’s safety to get what he wants and be part of the final deal. Instead of having another attack with an adult a young child is used as a ruse and he is taken as a slave, a bomb vest attached to him and then things happen that will make the reader shudder. A young child and his mother are taken in and when the bomb is thrown Ozlem’s life is in danger as she is seriously injured but will she survive and when you learn the truth about what she found you will understand why she wanted the truths about the cache hidden deeply forever.
The Ministry of Culture in Ankara is the setting and Tugce Iskan’s boss and sends her to investigate but when she finds the Roman coin dating back to the Galen and his father’s treasure what is the reason, she is hiding the fact that she has it? The original letter written by Galen was Ozlem’s impetus to learn more and her refusal to give these documents to the higher ups get her fired.
The plot becomes very complex as both sides work hard to find the artifacts. The Hamit’s will stop at nothing having dealers use strong arm tactics and even murder to get at the treasure and using one man to create this attack with the child taking out Ozlem as she is the one that needs to be eliminated in order to for the Hamit family to make their points. Serkan learns of his mother’s injuries and possible death and is told by Elif, his sister to hide because no one is safe. We also hear from Mustafa’s father as he acts against someone, he feels betrayed him, killed his son but the reality is you won’t believe who gets the final revenge.
When Mustafa threatens Elif and she is forced to play by his rules what she does and allows readers to learn will shock her world and that of her family more powerful than the largest bomb going off. Entering the area where she realizes that her documents relate where the cache might be, taking someone’s life is the only safety net and remorse will not pay off at the end. Her mother is in a coma, Iskan comes to see her and she challenges her to act and resolve the problems because only Elif has the power and not how to do this but will she? The Sekhmet amulet had nothing to do with the attack on Ozlem. It was well planned and the Hamit’s believe that her family will ruin their business, outsell them and turn them into losers. This is a story about power, greed, control, hate, revenge, the need to be on top and controlling the market and taking down anyone in their way.
Is the Galen letter real? Does the cache really exist? What does Elif know that the Hamits will do everything in their power to bring her to their side, make her adhere to their deadlines but will she submit, or will she be the one takes them down. Author Jay Amberg brings to light many moral and ethical issues as Tugce faces whether to relate all she knows to her superiors, what about the gold coin will she keep it, or will she find a way to return it to where it belongs? What about Elif her actions speak louder than words and the author allow readers to hear her thoughts and decide for themselves if what she did was right or wrong? A child’s love for her mother and two family’s that would fight for the what they think is right or what they think they deserve. From the prologue we learn that Galen was a great healer and we learn more about his powers of healing throughout the novel as we hear and see his miracles at work. We learn more about Ozlem, her mother who stands as her conscience at times, Elif who has the power to create sculpture and much more and a mother named Ozlem who risked it all for the what she believed in. The ending is shocking and the group of women that are now joined together to climb to the top of cliff and you can hear the music, feel their heart’s beat and learn the hidden truths behind Ozlem’s dream.
Characters and a storyline ripped right out of the headlines today and a terrorist attack that set the events in motion as the author created a highly charged, electrifying ending to a story that would be told repeatedly: The Healer’s Daughters.
The Healer’s Daughters is a modern-day thriller set in Turkey, among the many major archaeological sites but it has its roots in the early days of the Current Era, when the area was a major health spa, overseen by the renowned healer, Galen. Author Jay Amberg introduces us to an archaeologist by the name of Özlem Boroğlu who considers herself the guardian of Galen’s ruins, around Bergama. After being unceremoniously dumped by the Government when her previous excavation was flooded to provide water for agriculture, Özlem is understandably bitter and guards Galen’s secrets closely. Her daughter Elif is a sculptor who still worships the Goddesses of antiquity and Özlem’s son is a tourist guide, caught up in the lucrative trading and black-market for antiquities, including many looted by the ISIL Caliphate and sold to unscrupulous collectors the world over. When terrorism strikes close to home, for Özlem and her family, it is unclear who the perpetrators really are; DAESH and their violent, inhumane campaign for power and notoriety, or is it actually closer to home – a wealthy illegal antiquities trading family wanting to make a very big point to Özlem.
The Healer’s Daughter had all the elements that go into making a compelling thriller – international terrorism; a greedy, powerful and ruthless criminal family; a group of inept, corrupt and “bought” government officials; a secret, elite, and clean anti-terror department of the said, corrupt government; and a principled, high-minded, academic who will stop at nothing to ensure her country’s past and powerful heritage is preserved for the ages. Author Jay Amberg’s style was straight-forward and easy to read. The flashbacks to Galen’s time were, perhaps, not as frequent as I might have wished, but ultimately this was a modern-day thriller, with a basis in the past, so that was fine. The link to the past was critical, though and, as a reader, I did appreciate the context. I also enjoyed the aspect of Elif’s Goddess worship and would have appreciated more exploration of that side of the story. In summary, though, this was a thoroughly readable and topical thriller that I can easily recommend to anyone who loves modern thrillers with historical twists, as I do.
The book opens with a terrorist bombing at a tourist site in Bergama, Turkey, killing 23 people. Bergama is built on the site of ancient Pergamon, the home of the Aesklepion, the world’s greatest healing center, and the birthplace of Galen, the Roman Empire’s most famous doctor. Turkey is one of my favorite countries, and I found myself searching the internet to see images of the ancient city of Pergamon. I devoured the historical and cultural aspects of the story.
Three strong, independent women are core to the story. First, there is Tuğçe Iskan, a Turkish Ministry investigator. She finds evidence that links the terrorist act to the Hamit family, a powerful criminal family that is known to deal illegally in antiquities, a family that pulls strings within the Ministry, thus hindering Iskan’s investigation. Iskan turns to Özlem Boroğlu, a local archeologist, and Boroğlu’s daughter Elif to assist her in her investigation. Elif is a sculptor known for her goddess figurines and has spent her entire life exploring local tombs.
To complicate things further, Elif’s brother Serkan is trying to make a name in dealing antiquities but he is playing with fire and ends up jeopardizing his entire family’s safety.
Terrorism, antiquities, power, goddesses, brutality, corruption, revenge…survival is uncertain. I found myself holding my breath, awaiting the outcome.
Amberg created characters that, good or bad, evoke an emotion from the reader. Complicated family relationships. Anger, heartbreak…both emotions hit me time and time again. Superb writing. A believable story.
With all the recent dissention going on in that part of the world, it’s refreshing to read an honest story about present-day Turkey that deals with real people, the challenges they face, and how their culture and world conflicts affect their daily lives. The three women in the story are likeable, admirable and believable in their viewpoints and their decisions. Through the story the author acknowledges the existence of terrorism, but demonstrates that it is as abhorrent, perhaps even more so, to honest Turkish people as it is to us in America. This is all told through the eyes of three remarkable women and their passion to preserve the arts and culture of their heritage. The author’s writing is clear, the characters well defined, the pace exciting, and I highly recommend this book.
This is a thriller that defies the formulas. For a start, the main protagonists are three strong women. The portrayal of terrorism and corrupt capitalism is all too real. The story tackles the question of whether art and healing practices can help confront the evils of the world. The Turkish setting is vivid and fascinating. Don't look for easy answers from this novel, but do expect intriguing questions.
Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review: “The Healer’s Daughters is a thriller set in Turkey, where archaeologist Özlem Boroğlu and her daughter Elif face not just archaeological discoveries, but the pressing influence of political forces with vested interests in the outcome of their work.
“As terrorists and corrupt officials influence their actions and threaten their lives, Özlem finds herself more than the protector of healer Galen’s ruins. She becomes the pawn in a larger game that threatens her entire family.
“Added into the mix of intrigue and confrontation are historical flashbacks to Galen’s time, Elif’s own pursuit of art that reflects her worship of the Goddess, and an investigation into grave robberies by Tuğçe Iskan, who is also moving closer to a truth that holds much wider consequences than local trouble.
“The Healer’s Daughters is replete with insights on Turkish culture. The characters all have Turkish roots and identities that may initially stymie Westerners unused to these names, but which lend to the authenticity of the background and events being described.
“The process of archaeological investigations that lead to a treasure hunt is nicely described (‘Galen’s reference to the scent of pine led Boroğlu out of the Kaikos Valley into the hills rising to Kapıkaya, and poor little Mehmet’s possession of the Hadrian Aureus confirmed that she is on the right track. And now, she has these two specific sites. She even gave Serkan the detailed geological map of the valley around Pergamon that she had painstakingly made. Let the Hamits dither around on their extensive land holdings in the valley. They, especially Mustafa, the overeducated, pompous son, have no real understanding of archeology and no chance of finding Galen’s treasure on their own.’) and tension builds on many levels, creating a complex, believable, and logically arranged sequence of events that keep readers on their toes.
“With its powerful blend of Turkish cultural explorations, international intrigue, a treasure hunt, historical references, and characters who hold their own special interests close to their hearts, The Healer’s Daughters is an exceptional thriller that proves hard to put down.”
The Healer’s Daughter is a thrilling novel that takes you on a political, cultural and historical journey. It is the type of novel that you just can’t put down as it pulls you right in with the injustice and corruption.
The novel takes place mainly in present time but pulls in historical events through Galen, the Roman Empire’s most famous doctor. The novel starts off with a terrorist bombing in Bergama, Turkey which kills twenty three local residents and tourists. From here, we plunge right in to this fast paced story.
The novel has several layers as we learn about Galen (his teachings), archaeological findings and plundering by black markets to sell these artifacts, as well as terrorists and an element of spirituality. The story centres around Ozlem and her family. Ozlem is a local archaeologist who finds evidence of a long hidden treasure. This sparks interest by several wealthy collectors who want to sell this item on the black market. These same individuals are protected by local and international government and use ruthless methods to get what they want.
This finding sets off a series of events that centre around Ozlem, her family and her colleagues that involves betrayal, murder, bombings, deception, greed and so much more. Ozlem and her daughter have to think several steps ahead and keep themselves firm in their beliefs in order to stay alive.
This novel had an excellent pace and the plot was incredible. I have never read a book like this before and it kept me engaged throughout the whole novel. I loved how we had glimpses of the past that connected to the present and even had meaning and guidance for our future. It is a truly special novel that you will not want to put down.
The Healer’s Daughters is the first book I have read by Jay Amberg. This thrilling novel involves a terrorist attack in the Turkish city of Bergama. Three children are among the twenty three dead. The attack is believed to be connected to the ancient city of Pergamon, a city of priceless artifacts and treasures. Tuğçe Iskan is determined to investigate the link between the two. She enlists the help of Özlem Boroğlu, an archealosgist, and her daughter, Elif. These three women must find solve the mystery before it is too late. Will they be able to survive the ordeal and save others from another attack?
I thought The Healer’s Daughters was a pretty good read. It is full of stay on the edge of your seat action, non stop adventure, unpredictable mystery and heart stopping suspense. I admired the main characters are Tuğçe, Özlem and Elif. These three women are so brave and courageous. I was intrigued by their story from start to finish. I had no problem reading the whole book in one day. I just could not put it down. I would have never guessed at how it all ended.
The Healer’s Daughters gets a well deserved five plus stars from me. I would give it one hundred stars if I could. Jay Amberg has earned himself a new fan. I can not wait to read more by him in the near future. I highly recommend this book for readers who enjoy a well written suspense filled thriller.
I received this book from the publisher. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.
A terrorist bombing in Bergama, Turkey has killed twenty-three people. Investigator Tugce Iskan finds evidence that the terrorists are linked to a powerful criminal family. They are selling artifacts from ancient Pergamon and to the philosopher Galen to fund their plans. Iskan is trying to get help in her investigation but finds herself at a standstill so she enlists the help of local archeologist, Ozlem and his daughter, Elif.
This was an interesting read. You can tell that Jay Amberg clearly loves this area. The history was enough to keep me reading the story. But when you add in the present circumstances it just makes the story that much more entertaining. I don’t agree with the terrorists but you can understand how they become wrapped up in the criminal underworld.
Following the past of the artifacts and people just trying to survive kept me engrossed with the story. There are several threads that wrap around and around until you can see that one or two threads keep them entwined.
This is a wonderful read and one I recommend to anyone that likes a great thriller with a history twist added in.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
Red City Review: “A superb, thrilling work of historical fiction with believable characters and a captivating plot. Full of Turkish traditions, Amberg invites readers to immerse themselves in the country’s culture and customs…[the] complex and layered plot—delicately laced with mystery—keeps readers engaged, eager to learn what happens next, and the illustrations which appear throughout the book provide helpful glimpses into Bergama and the ancient sites…a uniquely gripping story that will appeal to everyone from history enthusiasts to fans of mysteries and political thrillers.”
Self-Publishing Review: “A complex and gripping novel. Tying together ancient cultural beliefs, insightful flashbacks, mystical practices, and enough treasure-hunting to satisfy a Clive Cussler fan, this tangled tale is difficult to put down both for its originality and skillful storytelling. The Healer’s Daughters is unpredictable throughout, as are the core characters, making this book a genuinely innovative pleasure that will appeal to a wide breadth of genre fans.”
Kirkus Reviews: “In Amberg’s (Bone Box, 2015, etc.) thriller, a bombing in Turkey intensifies a search among various parties for artifacts and an ancient villa that reputedly houses a treasure.
“An Islamic State group’s attack at the acropolis in Bergama, Turkey, kills numerous tourists and devastates the citizens. Tuğçe Iskan’s boss at the Ministry of Culture in Ankara sends her to investigate. Inside the pocket of the bombing’s sole survivor, Tuğçe finds a Roman coin dating back to the second century, when famed physician and philosopher Galen was alive. A year ago, Tuğçe’s former colleague at the Ministry, Özlem Boroğlu, got her hands on an original letter written by Galen. But Özlem’s refusal to give the document to her superiors eventually led to her job termination. Meanwhile, the Hamit family, wealthy antiques dealers known for stealing artifacts and bullying or killing competitors, believe the letter reveals the location of the treasured Galen cache. Their search ultimately involves Özlem’s son, Serkan, a failed tour guide peddling antiquities to foreigners, and her daughter, Elif, whose sculptures often account for Serkan’s sales. The Hamits also implicitly threaten the Boroğlu family, who soon suspect the villainous Hamits of being responsible for a second bombing in Turkey. Though Amberg introduces a multitude of characters, short chapters and concise backstories keep the pace brisk. The author shines at creating distinctive characters. Elif and others, for example, conduct a ritual to remember lost lives, which is a striking contrast to others who use the “Bergama Bombing” to boost their political careers. Moreover, Amberg deftly shows how viewing unfamiliar cultures as exotic can be insensitive; Özlem confronts a crass British photographer who thinks nothing of snapping pictures of praying mourners in Bergama.
“A large, memorable cast augments this dramatic mystery/thriller.”
A thrilling ride that is hard to put down. The Healer's Daughters is filled with lots a lover of books can enjoy. There is suspense and danger,drama and much more. It is interesting because of it's setting and just might give the reader a glimpse into a culture that is somewhat foreign.
The main characters and their heart and strength pull you into the story and keep you interested through the twists and turns and the suspense.
Lesley Jones, Readers’ Favorite: “The small town of Bergama, Turkey, is about to be brought to its knees when terrorist and Muslim convert Osama Flynn’s mission of martyrdom is ‘successful’. Tugce Iskan is sent by the Ministry of Culture in Ankara to investigate the motives behind the attack. When she discovers one of the victims of the attack had an ancient gold coin on his person, she must find out if indeed the attack was an act of terrorism or connected to the ancient cache of Galen, a well-respected philosopher and architect from the second century of the Common Era. What Iskan uncovers is a wall of silence to her questions, but slowly her investigation reveals a lucrative business of selling artifacts by the powerful Hamit crime organization and a retired archaeologist called Ozlem, who has in her possession an ancient Roman letter. Iskan is not the only one who wants to know if Ozlem is hiding the whereabouts of an ancient burial ground filled with antiquities. The Hamit family are on her trail too.
“From the first chapter, The Healer’s Daughters by Jay Amberg gripped my imagination and attention. The main plot is filled with tension and suspense and there are many interesting subplots that support and add depth to the story. The characters are believable and introduced gradually so the storyline was easy to follow. The characters of Ozlem and Iskan were superb, strong and focused on achieving their aim, and the scenes between them were my favorites. The author has a clear skill of building tension and suspense and taking you into the world of the characters. Jay has cleverly woven so much into this novel; acts of terrorism, the kidnap and indoctrination of a young child, and the abuse of his mother. There were also great scenes showing the complex family dynamics of Ozlem and her two children who all have secrets to hide. There are some brilliant twists to the plot that are uncovered towards the end. This novel has a clear 5/5 for me and I would recommend it to anyone who loves a gritty, powerful story.”
I have to be honest, this is not a book that I probably would have picked up to read for no real reason. My book group chose this book. The author is a friend to a member and he came to our book group. It was nothing short of fascinating listening to him and how he writes. It took me a bit to get into the book and get a handle on the characters but once I did, I was completely hooked. It has mystery, intrigue, a little history, a little geography, it really is all you could ask for in a book. I'm so pleased that I read this.
This is the first time I’ve read anything by jay Amberg. His novel, The Healer’s Daughter, is a fast paced thriller, with interesting characters, and a complex story that kept me interested to the end. It did take me a few chapters to get into the story, but I think that was due to me being unfamiliar with names and setting. I recommend this novel if you like thrillers and learning about other cultures.
Thank you to the author and Amazon for the kindle copy I received on Goodreads Giveaways.
This book takes place in Turkey and starts with a terrorist bombing at a tourist site in Bergama, Turkey, that kills 23 people. I like that the main characters are three very strong women. The story shows terrorism and the realities of a corrupt system. Was very well done for a non history lover here. I enjoyed the story and it brought up some interesting thoughts.
Trigger warning: terrorist attacks, violence against women and attempted rape, torture and assault of men This book has a little about the life of Galen. Mostly it tells the story of three generations of women: The grandmother who worships the old goddesses, the mother who is an archeologist, and the daughter who is an artist.
A complicated, uplifting story of female courage. After spending the first chapter with a young Galen at the bedside of his dying father in Pergamon, Asia Minor, in 148 CE, we are abruptly dropped into the mind of a suicide bomber in Bergama (modern-day Pergamon) in 2017. The man, an Irishman by birth but converted in prison, drives his truck toward the Aesklepion, the world’s historical center of healing, with the intention of blowing up the Acropolis cable car station and becoming a famous martyr for his cause. From this terrible moment, we are suddenly on the promontory overlooking the horrific aftermath of the bombing, pacing and crying with Özlem Boroğlu, who until recently was the local director of Archeology and Antiquities. She knows that what occurred was only to cover up the real crime going on: the looting of priceless artifacts by ISIL to sell to international buyers. Soon she is joined by her daughter Elif, artist and worshipper of the old mother goddesses, who joins her weeping. Tuğçe Iskan, a Turkish Ministry investigator, sits in her office and tries to make the connections between this bombing, Özlem Boroğlu, and the powerful Hamit crime family. An outsider in her own family because she is left-handed and therefore unclean, she does not mind being an outsider in her job. She trusts almost no one. We are also introduced to other women: Haziz, the mother of Mahmet, the boy fatally injured in the bombing who holds a coin and a clue; the unnamed wife of a suicide bomber whose eleven-year-old son is taken from her and also made a suicide bomber, and who eventually takes her own life rather than be raped by the sheik who took theirs. There are men, obviously, such as Serkan Boroğlu, son of Özlem, but he, like most of the men in the story, are the cause of the problems, either due to greed or ignorance. Even those who seem harmless cause harm through their rash decisions and inability to reason calmly. There are, however, a few who are truly selfless and literally sacrifice themselves for others. At its heart, "The Healer’s Daughters" by Jay Amberg is a story of the healing, necessary power of female relationships and the strength women possess alone and in groups. I was not expecting to discover this theme when I began reading but was beyond satisfied with the direction the author took the story and the sense of hope at the conclusion.
Beautifully written from the first stunning chapter to the last. Impeccable research has been seamlessly woven through a fascinating story. Jay Amberg has given us a novel with overarching themes ranging from the carefully-observed relationships among family members to the largest questions of individual's and societies' relationships with our history and with our Earth itself.