Red Dress in Black and White

Knopf. May 2020. 288p. ISBN 9780525521815. $26.95. F
This latest novel from National Book Award finalist Ackerman (e.g., Waiting for Eden) focuses on the interactions of a half-dozen characters in the course of one 24-hour period in 2013. Thanks to Ackerman’s unaffected style, this absolutely riveting novel moves rapidly, unlike some one-day novels (think of James Joyce’s painfully difficult Ulysses). Catherine is a young American living in Istanbul, a patron of the arts, who is married to famous Turkish architect Murat, a passive man who seems more interested in saving his faltering business than his failing marriage. Their friend Kristin, a scheming Machiavel, serves as the cultural attaché at the American embassy, while Kristin’s friend Deniz is curator of the museum where Catherine is a trustee and for which Murat is designing a new wing. American photographer Peter is a beneficiary of a grant awarded by Kristin through the embassy. Amid the ups and downs of all these interconnected characters, William, Catherine and Murat’s adopted son, turns out to be the story’s unsuspecting fulcrum. Though this is not a mystery proper, there is mystery here. In Agatha Christie fashion, Ackerman gathers his characters for what appears to be the grand finale but saves the true reveal for the very end.
VERDICT An attention-grabbing, cleverly plotted, character-driven yarn. [See Prepub Alert, 11/4/19.]
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