The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep

Steven Heighton. Hamish Hamilton, $18 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-7352-3256-3
Heighton’s (Afterlands) fascinating novel takes place largely in Varosha, the tourist quarter of the Cypriot town of Famagusta. The town was abandoned in 1974 when Turkish forces invaded and occupied it, but this story begins three decades later in the shadow of a different conflict. Following a traumatic military incident in Afghanistan, Elias Trifannis, a Canadian soldier who enlisted to please his dying Greek father, is shipped off to Cyprus for stress leave and therapy. A romantic night with a prominent journalist goes terribly wrong when Turkish soldiers, objecting to a relationship between a Turkish woman and someone they think is a Greek man, ambush them. Elias is rescued and then held captive by the villagers—a ragtag bunch hiding out, most presumed dead, in the ruins of Varosha. Elias’s arrival threatens the villagers’ safety, which was previously ensured by Kaya, a happy-go-lucky Turkish officer. He’s more concerned with his prowess on the tennis court than issues of military security, but a zealous young subordinate who wants to bring Kaya down starts prowling around Varosha, determined to prove that there are people living in the ruins. As this well-plotted novel draws to a tense conclusion, Heighton skillfully knits together the difficult history and politics of the region, military machinations, and the nuanced inner lives and relationships of Elias and the villagers. Agent: Martha Magor, McDermid Agency. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2017
Release date: 03/01/2017
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