Stylish, inventive, and deliciously dark, Altan's U.S. debut is both an absorbing thriller and an intensive novel of ideas; no wonder he's an award-winning and best-selling author in his native Turkey. The nameless narrator, a lackluster novelist, impulsively abandons city life for a small coastal town and falls immediately for the beautiful, evasive Zuhal, whose former lover is the all-powerful mayor. The village looks placid enough, but there's menace beneath the surface; the townsfolk avoid him, mafia-style killings are prevalent, and a buried treasure on the hill beckons. The mayor has his own reasons for befriending the narrator, who is soon drawn into a venture that spirals violently out of his control. Meanwhile, comparisons abound between novelists and God, who can get away with a lot more, and we're left wondering if we are in control of our lives the way the novelist is in control of his characters. VERDICT Existential questions perfectly blended with atmosphere and rat-a-tat prose; highly recommended.