Dark passion

Detail from a "Tree of life" carpet
As a small child I was never that keen on Grimm's fairy tales - for that matter, I'm still not - and the Disney cartoons based on Grimm's stories left me completely cold. What I loved, and still do, were the stories of the Arabian nights. My great-uncle had lived in India for some time, and entranced me with tales of flying carpets and exotic princes and princesses who were troubled by evil sorcerers adept at summoning djinns. Stories that I later came to recognise as staples of the Arabian nights, and, of course, there are Indian links to these tales via the Mughal Empire. Perhaps it's because of this passion, that I've always enjoyed the Cetin Ikmen tales of Barbara Nadel. Set principally in Istanbul, they're great detective stories, that have an odd exoticism about them. Istanbul is portrayed in many ways as a European city, but one with an exotic past, and that remains slightly "other".

This otherness is very present in A passion for killing. A carpet dealer goes missing, and then is discovered murdered, meanwhile Suleyman, Ikmen's former assistant, is immersed in an investigation, into what appears to be a gangland murder, but may have links to a very Byzantine conspiracy. The novel's well written, the crime/s are cleverly plotted, and there are great moments of tension - if perhaps occasionally a few coincidences too many. The mores of modern Turkey and its struggles to come to terms with its past are also well described; and as ever with Nadel Istanbul is lovingly portrayed.

The only reason I wouldn't recommend this novel as a first read in the Ikmen series to a newcomer, is that it is quite heavily dependent on its immediate predecessor in the series Dance with death, which I had read previously, albeit a long time ago; and it really did help that I had read that. It's not absolutely essential, but I think large chunks of the book would have been fairly incomprehensible without it.

If you're an Ikmen fan you'll enjoy this, as ever with Nadel it's well written and plotted, and the characterisation of the central characters can't be faulted - there's also a fabulously oily "baddie". For aficionados of the Arabian nights there's some great magic carpet lore in here. But don't make this the first book you read in the series.


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