I was eager to read The Istanbul Puzzle, after following Laurence O’Bryan’s path to publication for some time now. If you haven’t heard of authonomy.com, it’s Harper Collins’ rather clever idea to find new writers. The concept is simple – writers upload their work, which is assessed and rated by other users. The pieces that score best, win an editorial review, and, perhaps more importantly, come to the attention of Harper Collins. This was the path that O’Bryan took, which led to his debut novel hitting the shelves earlier this month. Out of the many books that have been uploaded, only a few have actually been published, The Istanbul Puzzle being one.
I read the book on my Kindle on my daily one-hour each way train commute. And is the journey important to this review? I think it is, and that’s because it demonstrates a point. On Friday, a colleague spotted me, standing in the rain, waiting for my bus link to the station. Ordinarily I would be pleased to get an unexpected lift, especially as I didn’t have a coat. In this case my first thought was that I wouldn’t be able to carry on reading – that keen was I to carry on.
The story plays out in Istanbul, a city O’Bryan clearly knows a lot about. It starts with widower, Sean Ryan (an American living in England) being given the news that a friend and colleague has been murdered. Ryan is called to Istanbul to identify the body, and cast light on what might have happened. He soon teams up with British Embassy staff member Isabel Sharp, in what proves to be a race to prevent the release of a deadly virus in London with the intention of wiping out a huge chunk of the population and creating a new Islamic state.
The Istanbul Puzzle is a great debut, with plenty of thrills, action, and enough history to give you the opportunity to actually learn something. I get the impression this isn’t the last we will have heard of Sean Ryan and Isabel Sharp.
And in case you forget, Laurence O’Bryan is the name of Harper Collins latest thriller writer. Remember it. He’s going to be around for a long time.