Another book I bought on the cheap because it featured Istanbul as its setting, this is a thriller, and essentially a murder mystery.
The basic premise is as follows: an elderly Jewish man is murdered in Istanbul’s Jewish quarter, and a swastika drawn above the corpse in blood. There are a handful of characters presented as likely suspects, each with moderately plausible motives, and it falls to the central character, Inspector Çetin İkmen, and his colleagues, to find the killer.
The characterisation’s key here, and Nadel succeeds in providing a cast of notably different characters, as well as a likeably quirky lead. I found the opening ten pages or so a bit of a struggle, as we keep switching locations and characters without it being quite clear what’s going on, but once the relationships between the characters become apparent it’s genuinely interesting, and there’s some good dialogue and interior monologue.
However, having set up an interesting situation, the book falters in that something needs to happen in order to upset the status quo and allow İkmen to figure out who did what and when. And this comes, but in a rather heavy-handed fashion, almost as if Nadel realised that the set-up was so tight, and the characters so tight-lipped, that the only way to resolve the story was to drop a bit of a Deus Ex Machina plot device into it, rattling things enough to enable characters to make mistakes and for the detective to figure it out. Given how tightly written the book is generally, this felt like a bit of a fudge, though it does at least move the story out of the corner it seems to have written itself into.
But the writing’s generally of a very high standard here, with the characters feeling real and (in places) genuinely creepy or evil, and Istanbul is (to my mind rightly) portrayed as a city burdened by its own history, struggling to make a smooth transition to the present.
A shame, as I say, that the story’s resolution feels it was wheeled into place by plot levers being so blatantly pushed, but I only paid 99p for this book, and it was more than enjoyable, so I’d cautiously recommend it. Nadel’s written further novels featuring the same character, I understand, so they may well be free of the plot problems I felt this one had.