Death in Motown

An ex-grand house in Detroit
It struck me when reading Barbara Nadel's recent Cetin Ikmen thriller Dead of night, that perhaps, with the rise of Eurocops, crime readers are actually looking for something rather different to their equivalents in the early twentieth century.

The 1920s me reading Poirot or Lord Peter Wimsey is interested principally in the puzzle. How are the little grey cells going to unravel the clues and point to the murderer? The 21st century Eurocop reading me is still interested in the puzzle, but I also like the ambiance. I like to know what Brunetti is having for dinner, how bleak Scandinavia can be, I want to wander the streets of Istanbul. This of course begs the question - are these modern crime novels as good at crime as their predecessors? If the detectives are moved from the locations in which they are lovingly placed, is the novel, and the reader, by extension the loser?

I think there is some truth in this. I cannot imagine Donna Leon's Brunetti working outside Venice, the few Wallander novels set outside Sweden are much weaker than the others. The only exception I have found are Barbara Nadel's Cetin Ikmen novels, two of which I have now read set outside Turkey.

My latest read Dead of night set on the rundown streets of Detroit was brilliant. Ikmen and his side-kick Suleyman are off to America for a policing conference. Ikmen becomes involved with an eccentric elderly gentleman who thinks the Istanbul cop can finally get justice for his murdered son. Sympathetic, having lost a child to violoence himself, Ikmen inadvertently opens a very large can of worms.

As with the Istanbul novels there is great location setting, the characterisation is superb, and if the ending doesn't altogether convince, it's still a pretty well constructed story. It's perhaps not the best novel to start reading about this likeable detective as there's a fair bit of back story which fans will be familiar with, but which might be a bit off-putting for new-comers. Any established Ikmen fans though will love it. Nadel always writes brilliantly, and Dead of night set in a seedy Detroit, which she nevertheless clearly loves, is well up to her usual standard. A must read for lovers of the Turkish detective.


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