Mysterious Book Report Star of IstanbulStar of Istanbul by Robert Olen Butler

Mysterious Press, $25.00, 369 pages, ISBN 978-0-8021-2155-4

The Great War, or World War One, as it’s now known, has long been an area of interest to me.  My Grandfather on my Father’s side of the family fought in it.  The Great War was the first mechanized war and the effects were both brutal and horrific.  The Ottoman Turk empire collapsed; the Brits killed an entire generation of their young men, bankrupted their country and saw their colonial empire begin to deconstruct itself; ditto for the French and Belgians; the Austrian Empire disappeared and Germany was vanquished in the war, stripped of her territories, saddled with war reparations too huge to pay and her monarchy was destroyed, all of which set the stage for Nazism and WWII; the Middle East was arbitrarily carved up by the Balfour Agreement, which created new countries and became the framework for much of today’s unrest there, as well as the rise of the oil states . . . all as a result of the First World War . . . and let’s not forget the Russian Revolution and the Irish breakaway from England after 800 years of trying, all as a result of the Great War.  And, I almost forgot, the Mexican Civil War was also being waged at this time, and that’s where we met and last saw a fictional character named Christopher Marlowe “Kitt” Cobb, newspaper reporter for The Chicago Post-Express, and spy for Uncle Sam and the United States of America.

In the Star of Istanbul, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert Olen Butler, we find Kitt aboard the steam ship Lusitania and headed for Europe, where war is raging.  He’s tasked with following a man named Walter Brauer, an American citizen and a suspected agent for the German Secret Service, and who may have information vital to the United States.  On board the doomed ship on her last voyage, Cobb gets involved with “the most beautiful woman in the world,” a silent movie star named Selene Bourgani.  As their relationship deepens, Cobb realizes she is working for the Germans, and  keep information from him that could be critical to American interests, and possibly the survival of two other civilizations.  The drama heats up with every page as Kitt Cobb follows her to Istanbul, where he’s behind enemy lines, cut off from help and on his own as he tries to unravel the beautiful and dangerous mystery that is Selene Bourgani.  Star of Istanbul is a complex, thinking readers novel and a rollicking good romp through history.  It’s crammed with factual information as well as all the thrills and chills we expect from a great adventure story.  Robert Olen Butler won’t disappoint your taste for adventure, entertainment or reading pleasure with this great new series!!


John Dwaine McKenna