The Healer's Daughters

Fiction - Thriller - General
311 Pages
Reviewed on 07/18/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Lesley Jones for 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.

K.J. Simmill

Everything changed the day the bomb was detonated at Bergama's Acropolis. Tuǧçe Iskan from the Ministry of Culture was quickly deployed to find out if there was anything about the attack that could embroil the Ministry in the investigation. She used to do more important things until she was punished for aiding Boroǧlu. By some twist of fate, it is exactly this person's doorstep she now finds herself upon. Iskan's ability to make connections, due to her photographic memory, see her transferred to a new, more secretive role, and as her investigation and search for the truth continues she finds her path becoming more intertwined with Elif's. Ancient clues have people on the hunt for a hidden treasure, a cache dating back to Galen. But more than just lives are on the line, and it's not always easy to know which is the right path to walk.

The Healer's Daughters addresses issues such as the wide spreading impact of terrorism, from the instant loss of life and destruction to the effect on trade and tourism and how people use such events to further their own gains. Jay Amberg's narrative style portrays the perspective of each character, from the thoughts, feelings, and motivation of the terrorist to the main characters whose lives are most affected, which gives a whole and complete feel. Corruption and manipulation run rampant in a plot filled with heightened emotions and reactions to the events. I particularly enjoyed the occasional return to Galen's ancient era, following his journey, and seeing how it aligns with current events. A detailed and interesting plot written at a slow and steady pace suitable for the heavy topics being addressed. Drama, pressure, and tensions mount in a plot with great descriptive writing and scene setting. Jay Amberg provides a glimpse into different cultures, beliefs, and economies while providing an interesting adventure filled with fear, danger, and discovery.

Grant Leishman

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 Common 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 Daughters has 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 valuable heritage is preserved for the ages. Author Jay Amberg’s style is straightforward and easy to read. The flashbacks to Galen’s time were perhaps not as frequent as I might have wished, but ultimately this is 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 is a thoroughly readable and topical thriller that I can easily recommend to anyone who loves modern thrillers with historical twists as I do.