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Two deaths occur in Istanbul, obstensibly with very different causes - one, a girl, was stabbed through the heart after sexual intercourse, whereas the other, a young man, apparently died by his own hand. Yet after some investigation, Inspector Cetin Ikmen and his colleague, Inspector Mehmet Suleyman suspect a link between the two. Tied in with the deaths is the underground Goth scene, Satanic practices, and a missing English magician. On top of that, Inspector Suleyman has to face that the fact that he may have AIDS and that his wife, who left him after he had a relationship with another woman, may never be coming back. Can he put his personal problems aside to find out what force is taking over Istanbul's young people?
Having now read a number of Barbara Nadel's books, I knew that I could expect a good yarn with the added advantage of a Turkish twist. However, there is something a little bit different about this one, because of the foray into the world of magic and illusion. I am, on the whole, not too fond of crime fiction with a magical twist - I like crime fiction because it faces grim reality - but in this case, I think it worked very well. There is already a sense of something different about Barbara Nadel's work, simply because this series is based in Turkey and concentrates on the life of the local people, which is often very spiritual, so somehow, the mystic side of it all seemed to fit in beautifully.
I do appreciate Nadel's efforts to develop the main characters. In this book, the emphasis is on Mehmet Suleyman, whose personal life is in tatters. Suleyman is a good-looking man descended from royalty and usually able to get what he wants. In this period of his fictional life, we get to see a much more subdued Suleyman, who, in many ways, is much more likeable like this. He is deeply sorry for the hurt he caused is wife and will do anything to persuade her to return from Ireland with their son. I suppose it is a British thing to feel sympathy for someone when they are down; I found myself really hoping that things worked out for him.
Ikmen is quite different from his colleague. The son of a peasant and a witch, he has had to struggle in the past and as a result is much more in tune with his spiritual side. Having a large family, we are treated to a glimpse of his family life, particularly his daughter, Cicek, who has just had to witness her much younger sister marry while she is still unattached. I could sympathise here - my much younger sister is married and has children while I am still single after a disastrous relationship - but the fact that Cicek is Turkish and therefore considered on the shelf makes her situation all the more poignant.
The more I read Barbara Nadel's work, the more I like it. I am always slightly suspicious about people who write about another nation as if they were part of it - as far as I am concerned, frequent visits to another country, even living in another country, doesn't make anyone an expert, and, as far as I am aware, Nadel has never lived in Turkey. Nevertheless, I always feel completely at ease with her work and she has certainly done her research. She may be using artistic licence - I don't know enough about Turkey myself to judge - but the story flows so beautifully that it really doesn't matter.
It is hard to find flaws with this book, but if I am picky, there are a couple. One is that I find the Turkish names slightly alien, which makes it difficult to remember them. This meant that I often had to skip backwards to remind myself who a certain person was, which was a little annoying. However, I eventually realised that there is a list of characters and a brief description of who they are in the front of the book, which proved very useful. There are a few characters missing, but all the important ones are there. The other flaw is perhaps the complexity of the plot and the way that it sometimes seems a little forced - some of the conclusions that Suleyman and Ikmen make are too far from the realms of possibility.
There is a lot of sex in this book. One of the murdered teenagers is sexually active before her death, and the description is quite vivid. The sex trade is also frequently mentioned. This didn't particularly bother me, although I would have been just as happy if it wasn't there - sex and death doesn't usually mix that well for me. However, for younger readers, it may not be totally appropriate.
I enjoyed this book. It isn't perfect, but it compelled me to keep reading deep into the night and I love the way that the characters' lives are unfolding. Although the story is a stand-alone one, I would recommend reading the series in order, starting with Belshazzar's Daughter, because of the character development. I think that anyone who enjoys crime fiction will enjoy this book and others in the series, especially if you are open to stories that aren't based in the UK or the US. Definitely recommended.
The book is available from play.com for £5.49. Published by Headline Publishing, it has 320 pages. ISBN: 9780755321285
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The young go to extremes to get their kicks nowadays. A naked teenage girl is found dead near the beautiful Byzantine Yoros Castle in Turkey. She has stabbed herself through the heart but there is evidence of bizarre sexual practice. In another part of Istanbul, a young boy seems to have committed suicide in similar circumstances. What dark rituals could have compelled them to fatal self abuse? Inspectors Cetin Ikmen and Mehmet Suleyman follow an internet trail that leads them to an underworld of Goth nightclubs and Satanic worship. But even those murky shadows hide more than they reveal and the answers to an ever increasing number of suspicious deaths is more shocking and terrible than they could ever have imagined.