Kamil Pasha (The Sultanís Seal) returns in Jenny Whiteís The Abyssinian Proof, the magistrate in the 1887 Ottoman Empire more comfortable with science and rational thought than the religious beliefs and superstitions of a region that has been inhabited by both Muslims and Christians for centuries. In Kamilís Istanbul, there is a fierce trade in precious artifacts, many stolen for sale to insatiable European collectors. The black market is thriving, but men are dying in this criminal enterprise.
Centuries earlier in 1453, a precious reliquary was hidden just before the onslaught of warring Muslims, a sect, the Melisites, secreting the reliquary among the hidden treasures of the Sunken Village, built below the rest of the city, occupied predominately by the Habesh. The reliquary is valuable because of what it contains: the Proof of God. Part of the sectís tradition is to pass the reliquary and its contents from one set of guardians and priestesses to the next, retaining the core beliefs of the Melisites.
Balki is the current priestess of the sect. When Kamilís friend, Malik, informs the inspector that the reliquary has been stolen, Kamil knows it is imperative that he interview Balki in the Sunken City. But Kamil is blindsided by the transcendent beauty of Balkís daughter, Saba, the next in line to assume the role of priestess. He is further shocked when Saba shows an interest in him, unsure of what this interest signifies.
Kamil is in a delicate position, charged with fairly adjudicating local affairs but realizing as well that people are often given to corruption. In researching the recent thefts, it is clear that there is a violent new organization at work; the increase in thefts is troubling as the cause of frequent violence. Then there is the European market and the matter of how the artifacts are being smuggled out of the country. Clearly, this is a wide network, one not easily broken by cursory investigation.
When Malik is brutally murdered, the case takes on a new urgency for the magistrate. There are increasing tensions between the Christians and large numbers of refugee Muslims looking for a place of safety, tempers flaring, people in desperate straits. His nose to the grindstone, Kamil meets yet another desirable woman, a refugee taken into his sisterís home, an artist trained in Paris, whose family has been slaughtered while fleeing to Istanbul.
Still reeling from her losses, Elia is drawn to Kamil but is not prepared to consider a relationship, wanting only to heal from her trauma and return to the solace of her painting. Patient and understanding, the sensitive Kamil has plenty of troubles in his case to keep him busy indefinitely.
The action goes from Istanbul to London, from the Sunken Village to Scotland Yard, Kamil confronted by barbaric customs and ancient ritual in service to a cult that holds the Proof of God. In the 19th-century Ottoman Empire, men die for precious secrets, performing blind acts of faith and violence in service to their god and their greed.