Body Count – Barbara Nadel

Another evocative murder mystery set in Istanbul, this decent crime novel mixes the hunt for a serial killer with the personal ponderings of Inspector Ikmen and Commissioner Ardic. Both are getting old and retirement is on the agenda. Their internal musings – occasionally verbalized to the supporting cast – are a strong part of the fine characterization on show. Both are rounded, interesting, and complex individuals who act as the author’s voice, delivering some nuanced (and some not so nuanced) observations on life in Turkey.

The plot involves a clash of old and new Turkey, with views of the underclasses and the downtrodden to remind us that outside the warm and hospitable homes of the heroes, there are many places a lot less friendly and pleasant. The gritty realism portrayed is matched by the no nonsense approach to the violent acts which interrupt the stalled investigation.

At times the book slows down too much and seems to lose its way. Just at the point where it starts to get annoying, the pace picks up again. I couldn’t decide if this was intentional or otherwise, and maybe reflected the need to make the narrative more realistic given real life police work is jam packed with long boring stretches of slogging. The writing is no slog, but the pacing means that you do have time to enjoy the view.

You could read this as a standalone novel and enjoy it. If you do, there are many more to read and also enjoy – perhaps even more than this one. If you are a serious reader, I recommend skipping this for now, and starting with

Deadline – Barbara Nadel

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Inspector Ikmen is, reluctantly, taking part in a charity event. It is a murder mystery hosted at Istanbul’s famous Pera Palas Hotel, where once the legendary Agatha Christie stayed. In short order, Ikmen is forced to take part in a real life murder mystery. With the clock ticking towards a dreadful deadline, Ikmen has to work out who the killer is, and who is behind the deadly show.

Once again, this author delivers a fine character portrayal, backed up by the wonderful color of Istanbul, past and present. While this plot is more far fetched than I would have liked, veering dangerously towards Hollywood style excess, it just about keeps its feet on the ground. I couldn’t quite buy into the motivation some of the characters had for taking part in the real murder mystery, but the overall impression of the criminal enterprise was well constructed, and worked better than the individual parts.

In short, not the best Ikmen story, but well worth reading.

Dead of Night – Barbara Nadel

Inspector Ikmen from istanbul is in Detroit for a police conference, when he meets an old man claiming Turkish roots, who asks Ikmen for help in finding out who killed the old man’s son, many years ago. Of course, the locals are not keen on wasting time on an old, cold case, and Ikmen has no status or authority in Detroit. But with the slightest interest shown by Ikmen in helping the old man, there is a deadly train of events set in place, with Ikmen at the center.

At the same time, back in Istanbul, a serial rapist is being released from prison after serving his sentence, and the joys of internet fandom for the rapist are causing consternation. The men and women of Ikmen’s station have their own challenges, it appears.

Although most of the book takes place in Detroit, away from the usual Ikmen backdrop of Istanbul, it has to be said that the author does as good a job in making the place seem alive and realistic. Ikmen, of course, carries the story too. And it’s a story featuring the curses visited on Detroit (of drugs, inner city decay, racial conflict, and corruption) which is well paced and well told. Nadel does a great job of maintaining connections with the Istanbul thread going on at the same time, but that is a bonus rather than essential.

In short, it’s a good crime story, told with class, peopled with real characters, and presented in authentic settings. It entertains and educates.

Score: 8/10.