Book review: Deadline by Barbara Nadel
A charity murder mystery night at Istanbul’s iconic Pera Palas Hotel is turning into a glittering occasion... until one of the actors is found brutally murdered in the room where the great Agatha Christie used to stay.
Just as well then that keeping a low profile among the high-profile guests is legendary Inspector Çetin İkmen, a man who will leave no stone – or bed – unturned to uncover the audacious killer.
Deadline is Lancashire-based Barbara Nadel’s 15th Inspector İkmen mystery, and age has not wearied this talented author and detective team who together stalk the shadowy underbelly of modern day Turkey in search of the darkest crimes.
İkmen is a masterful creation, an anachronistic, chain-smoking, crumpled sleuth whose shining intellect and razor-sharp cynicism have not yet been blunted by Istanbul’s new breed of garish, glossy citizens.
An old-fashioned Turk who puts friends and family first, he is impressed not by wealth or possessions but by the single-minded pursuit of justice.
Here we find İkmen characteristically grumpy as he contemplates an evening of ‘organised fun,’ his pet hate, with the great and good at the Pera Palas.
The luxury hotel is packed with rich donors who expect to be royally entertained in exchange for giving their cash to a fund-raiser for a free drug and alcohol addiction clinic run by the brother of İkmen’s good friend Arto Sarkissian.
Chief among the guests is Lale Aktar, a woman from humble Turkish origins who has become the country’s youngest and most sensational crime writer.
Halfway through the evening, İkmen finds himself embroiled in a deadly game of life imitating art when one of the theatre group actors is found stabbed to death on Lale’s bed in the revered suite where Agatha Christie stayed.
As he launches a murder inquiry and finds himself walking in the footsteps of the great writer, İkmen soon starts to experience fear and hatred which have echoes deep in his own, and his country’s, past.
Nadel’s ongoing love affair with the colourful, exciting, exotic city of Istanbul adds authenticity and atmosphere to her gripping crime thrillers, allowing the busy streets and breath-taking landmarks to become a powerful and engaging backdrop to well-plotted mysteries.
And with intelligent storylines rooted in Turkey’s complex social and political systems, the Inspector İkmen books have evolved into that addictive mix of time, place, crime, quirky characterisation and last but not least, top-class entertainment.
(Headline, hardback, £19.99)