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Belshazzar’s Daughter

By Barbara Nadel
Published by Hodder Headline
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Book Description

From the review by Andrew Finkel in Cornucopia Issue 36

Inspector Cetin Ikmen, a policeman in today’s Istanbul, has investigated over a dozen crimes in a series of airport-bookstore-style thrillers, their success emblazoned in silver-embossed letters on the paperbacks’ spines.

To discover their appeal, I started with the first of Barbara Nadel’s mysteries, Belshazzar’s Daughter. Ikem joins a long line of sleuths (Morse, Reg Wexford, even Sherlock Holmes) who are a cut above the society they patrol and whose eccentric erudition is contrasted with the rough foil of a plodding sidekick. On the other hand, the book is not really a whodunnit. The inspector does not so much solve the crime as follow its trail, and there is certainly no way the reader could be expected to puzzle out who did it. Ikmen’s main role is to be the one character with whom we can sympathise.

Nadel is good at characters, and in this book most of them are nasty enough to qualify for group therapy with Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley. But if she gets under their skin she does not really get under that of the milieu they inhabit. I was eager for a book that revelled in the peculiarities of Istanbul, and while we can see Beyo€lu or Balat, the city is something of a flat backdrop for what is, let’s face it, a pretty silly story. Nadel understands her limitations. Her suspects are Germans and White Russians, and that migratory breed, an Englishman teaching English abroad.

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