Monday, December 13, 2010

Topkapi Secret by Terry Kelhawk - a brief review

About the Book (from the publisher)
A fourteen hundred year old cover-up…
All who threaten this secret die…
A race through the Middle East to uncover evidence buried in plain sight

Cultures clash and emotions soar as Arab researcher Mohammed Atareek and American professor Angela Hall race away from death towards discovery. Will they succeed in their journey to expose the truth, or will the opposition terminate them first?

On display within the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul lies the Topkapi Codex—an ancient manuscript of the Koran involved in the murder that split Shiite from Sunni. What’s the truth about the Topkapi Codex? Is there blood on it? Are its contents the same as the modern Koran’s? No one knows because the Topkapi Codex is off limits to research.

Mohammed Atareek is obsessed with getting his hands on this mysterious manuscript. His research has convinced him that the Koran has been changed many times, and the text of the famous codex could prove it. But other scholars are turning up dead. Did they share his conviction? Should he expose himself to their risk?

Angela, a UC Berkeley English professor, married money and kept it; but lost the marriage, most of her family, and a friend under traumatic circumstances. On top of that, she makes a career move that puts her in the Middle East and in Mohammed’s path. His overconfident, witty, and impulsive personality is both puzzling and refreshing to Angela. But when Mohammed tries to engage her in his quest, he finds she has an agenda of her own. Cat and mouse games, heated discussions, and sparks of romance inevitably ensue.

Based on solid historical research, this exciting debut novel features a page-turning plot, a startling conclusion, and many eye-opening facts about the origins of the Koran.

About The Author:

Terry Kelhawk is an award-wining speaker, writer, and teacher with significant personal and professional experience with Islam and the Middle East.

In Terry’s words, “I love peoples and cultures. We have so much to learn from each other, and this makes the world a richer place. Yet when I come across a misunderstanding or deception which adversely impacts a culture or people group, for the sake of those people I believe it should be exposed.”

Terry Kelhawk holds a doctorate degree, but believes people should keep on learning through life. Her areas of interest are culture, religion, and women’s rights – especially of Middle East. She blogs on,, and, and likes travel, reading, and asking questions.

Terry believes we should, as Honey Jean of Atlanta in The Topkapi Secret would say, “Make the world a better place, or y’all just taking up space!”

My Thoughts:

Let me begin by saying that this book is not my normal fare. Actually, I failed to notice some of the disclaimers on the announcement for this tour. That said, I found this book to be written in a style that was very, very distracting. Each chapter began with the location of the action and the date on which it was occurring. Good thing, because the chapters ranged in length from one page (there were several of these little disrupters) to six to ten pages. None of the chapters were very long, which is not bad in itself, but most were 1-5 pages and they blurted out some piece of information that sometimes felt very unnecessary, and then moved on to some other place and time. I read one chapter and all in the world I learned that had anything to do with the plot was that the guy outran (outrode actually) a bull! (don’t ask!) This author could have told a much more effective story without so many short chapters.

That said, this story deals with the pursuit of the truth about the publication of the Koran. I’m sure I can’t begin to understand the significance of that fact in the grand scope of the Muslim faith. I understand the danger involved because of the main character’s occupation and the fact that there are those who want the secret kept, but overall, I did not find this to be a compelling tale. The conversations were stilted, a lot of the historic background read like a textbook, and poor old Mohammed couldn’t decide whether to say ‘sister’ or ‘seester’. This story needed a good editor.

And, there was some foul language that could have skillfully been avoided when the author portrayed an abusive character. But, this is not a Christian publishing house, so I guess anything goes. The overall premise of the story is good, but the skill with which it is told leaves a lot to be desired.

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