The naked body of a young English woman washes up in the Bosphorus wearing a pendant inscribed with the tughra, the Sultan's seal, found only on possessions of the imperial household. The Turkish magistrate Kamil Pasha sets out to find the killer, but encounters a web of obstacles and links to the earlier killing of another English woman.
Were these political murders involving the palace or crimes of personal passion? Sybil, the daughter of the English ambassador, uses her connections to help Kamil infiltrate the secret world of the harem. As they untangle the threads, they make powerful enemies in a society where the forces of tradition and modernity collide.