I am a great fan of crime fiction set in other countries. In addition to a good mystery, these stories also provide a window into new parts of the world. You learn about customs, traditions, food and arts, and more in the context of a crime investigation. Barbara Nadel is my latest find in this genre (thanks, Penelope), and she ranks up there with Donna Leon, Magdalene Nabb, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, and George Simenon in my pantheon of international crime fiction authors.
Nadel’s stories are set in contemporary Istanbul, and feature Turkish Police Inspector Çetin Ikmen and his assistant Mehmet Suleyman. Ikmen is a wonderful creation, with his wife and eight children (and one on the way), his ever-present bottle of brandy, and his thoughtful approach to crime solving. Nadel has also created a host of other appealing characters, including Ikmen’s long-suffering wife Fatma, the other members of the police squad, and of course those people caught up in the criminal investigation.
The story begins with the discovery, by an unknown character, of the body of an old Jewish man in the seedy Balat section of Istanbul. Far from the tourist attractions Balat houses what remains of Istanbul’s Jewish population, as well as those down on their luck. Ikmen’s investigation into the crime takes him deep into the past, as long-buried violence resurfaces, and Ikmen and his team try to unravel a complicated and tangled set of threads.
Nadel has an obvious affection for and a clear understanding of Istanbul and its people, and she captures the city’s bright light and its dark shadows in this complex and twisting story. Belshazzar’s Daughter is a fine start to an excellent series that should appeal to fans of international crime novels.
Check the WRL catalog for Belshazzar’s Daughter