Sunday, February 15, 2009

Barbara Nadel's 11th Inspector Ikmen novel

River of the Dead, by Barbara Nadel, sends Inspector Ikmen's assistant, Inspector Suleyman, away from Istanbul to the dark and dangerous east of Turkey, in search of an escaped prisoner, while Ikmen follows the trail in Istanbul. The story is very complicated, involving the multiple religions of Turkey, a serpent goddess who dwells in a cave, a monastery, wormwood and drugs, Ikmen's prodigal son, a Fagin-like organizer of boy-thieves, a Bulgarian prostitute, drug addicted hospital personnel, a body that has apparently washed down the Eufrates from the Iraq war, and so forth. One of the characters remarks in the middle of his confession, "it all became confusing then," and if even the perpetrators in the story find it confusing, what hope do we mere readers have. But Nadel maintains control of the story and leads us through both mystical and realistic paths to a bloody conclusion that at least ties up most of the loose ends. This is less a mystery than a police procedural (a rather repetitios one) married to an adventure story (the atheist Ikmen mutters about being in Harry Potter territory, at one point), along with an informative travelogue of Istanbul and Turkey's far east. It's a bit carnivalesque--though fun to read, perhaps because of that quality. Perhaps other readers can let us know if this pattern is typical of the other Ikmen novels (and perhaps they can also recommend whether it might be rewarding to go back and read the series from the beginning).

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