Nights of Plague

by Orhan Pamuk writes about a historical outbreak of plague on a fictional island in the Mediterranean in 1901. Mingheria is a small island that’s part of the crumbling Ottoman Empire, populated by both Orthodox Greeks and Muslims. When the plague arrives, either from religious pilgrims or trading ships, the Orthodox Christian sultan Abdul Hamid II imposes a strict quarantine, which some of the island’s inhabitants refuse to follow because of his religious beliefs. A Muslim doctor is dispatched instead, but the early mismanagement of the plague by the island’s governor takes its toll and the death count begins the rise steadily. Meanwhile, there’s a murder on the island that must be solved, something that becomes more challenging when the sultan introduces a blockade of the island. No one is allowed in or out, while tensions between religious sects, science and superstition, and modernity and tradition erupt into conflict. A suspenseful read with an all-too-familiar historical backdrop.