My new historical mystery, The Fabergé Flute, has a connection with this terrible event in world history.
The flute of the title is made from precious reliquaries stolen from an Armenian monastery in 1915. The first scene in the novel references the beginnings of the genocide:
“Earlier that morning, the market in Erzurum was buzzing with rumors of a massacre of Armenians at Van, a town not far from there. Rumor had it that Turkish soldiers were on their way to Erzurum with similar intentions and would be there next day. Knots of fleeing Armenians stopped in a steady stream on their way out of town at the house of an American missionary family, dropping off valuables and insurance policies for safe-keeping. The American ambassador in Istanbul was reported to be on the verge of resigning because he couldn’t persuade government leaders—Turks or Americans—to do anything about the ethnic killings.”
Seventy years later, the novel’s heroine, Sallie Dunbar, meets a handsome man from Turkey at a music convention. He expects her to know of the genocide, but Sallie, an American, has no notion.
Sallie’s knowledge of world history was linked to her study of literature. She couldn’t think of any Armenian writers. Except maybe William Saroyan, and he was born in Fresno.
“Sorry. All I associate with the word Armenian is my grandmother’s favorite harangue when I wouldn’t clean my plate at supper. ‘Think of the starving Armenians,’ she’d tell me. I never could understand how eating sweet potatoes in Arkansas could help starving Armenians wherever in the world they were.”
Kassim smiled gravely.
“I shall not be the one to explain. I’ll simply ask you to remember, when you do read about that evil episode of history, that my family did what they could to help their Armenian neighbors.”
Another character, Aram, is an Armenian, the descendant of a man who witnessed the theft of the reliquaries that became the Fabergé Flute. When a detective assumes that Aram would hate Kassim because of his Turkish origin, Aram responds this way:
“Kassim [is ] Turk, yes. But he . . . good Turk. In the bad times, in 1915 when Turkish government ordered the slaughter of my people, not all Turks obeyed. Would I be sitting here talking to you if all Turks killed Armenian neighbors? Good Turks hid my mother and I am here. What lunatic hates whole race for wickedness some do?”