River of the Dead by Barbara Nadel

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River of the Dead by Barbara Nadel

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Buy River of the Dead by Barbara Nadel at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Melony Sanders
Reviewed by Melony Sanders
Summary: A renowned drug smuggler manages to escape from prison in Istabul, leaving dead bodies in his wake. Inspectors Cetin Ikmen and Mehmet Suleyman must find him before more heads roll. An excellent read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: June 2009
Publisher: Headline
ISBN: 978-0755335664

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Yusuf Kaya, a drug smuggler in prison for multiple murder, manages to escape, leaving all witnesses dead or incapable of telling anyone what happened. Investigation shows that Kaya's family are from another part of Turkey, and as that is where he is likely to go, Inspector Mehmet Suleyman is sent off to follow up any leads he can find. On arrival, he finds himself hampered by local customs and beliefs that he just cannot understand. Meanwhile, Inspector Cetin Ikmen continues the investigation in Istanbul, hampered by the fact that his long-lost drug-abusing son has suddenly returned home, throwing the whole family into disarray. Between them, can they track down Yusuf Kaya? Or is his criminal network too wide-reaching for even the police to have an impact on?

I have now read several books in the Cetin Ikmen series by Barbara Nadel and I have to say that the series grows stronger with each book. For me, the most attractive point about the books is the setting. I have never been to Turkey, although I would very much like to visit, but Nadel describes the setting in such great detail that I really feel I am being educated as I read. Of course, Nadel is not Turkish, although she has spent a long time in Turkey, and so I don't know how authentic her work is, but it is certainly convincing enough for me. Set in a different country and culture, the story takes on a refreshing angle - and is a pleasant change from traditional British or American crime fiction.

Another reason I love the series is because of the two main characters - Cetin Ikmen and his colleague, Mehmet Suleyman. The two are complete opposites. Ikmen is a down-to-earth, working-class man who works via his intuition, which he believes he inherited from his mother, who was a witch. He is very much a family man, with a whole horde of children to care for. Suleyman's ancestors were Ottoman princes, and although his family circumstances have changed, many see his regal demeanour and treat him with respect. He is married to a half-Turkish, half-Irish woman twelve years older than him; despite his love for her, however, he does attract attention from the ladies and has strayed in the past.

This book concentrates more on the character development of Cetin Ikmen. Although Suleyman features heavily, his private life is almost ignored as he concentrates on the case in hand. Ikmen's family life, however, spills over into his job, and we are given a greater insight into his family and how their relationships are changing. The introduction of Ikmen's long-lost son particularly adds a new dimension to things, and as the story develops, we find out that his criminal background will possibly have an impact on Ikmen's career. This convincing character development makes the story even more readable; perhaps more importantly, I can't wait until the next book in the series is released.

The story is a good one. Perhaps because of the Turkish setting, it seems that much more original than much of the crime fiction I read these days. Police methods of investigation are much more roundabout than British/American methods, which adds a greater sense of mystery. The only problem that I had with the story was occasionally that it was hard to follow - this is simply because there are so many characters and they all have foreign names (to me at least), which took me that bit longer to process. A list of character names at the beginning or end of the book would have been a good idea, so that the reader can refer to it as necessary. As it is, I was constantly having to flick backwards through the pages to try and work out who was who.

This is not the first book in this series to have a hint of mysticism in it. However, it is undoubtedly a greater part of the story than it has ever been before, probably because it is partly set outside of Istanbul in the 'provinces'; mainly a city called Mardin. There, there is a belief in a type of goddess called the sharmeran, which is very local to the area and very strongly believed in - I believe that this is at least partly based on truth. On top of that, there is a living saint - a man who was bitten by poisonous snakes, yet managed to survive because of the sharmeran. All this confuses Suleyman's investigation, because so few people are willing to tell the truth for fear of reprisal by the sharmeran or her believers. I really enjoyed this part of the story, although it was alien to me. However, some may find it a bit too much to take in.

The book is a pleasant length; at 384 pages it is long enough to be a meaty plot, but not too long that the reader becomes bogged down by details. Nadel writes really well; her powers of description are superb, because I could really picture what was happening. The sights of Turkey are particularly well described. It feels as though the author put a great deal of thought into both the story and the way that she wrote it, which makes for a high quality read.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and devoured it in just a few days. I do have the advantage of having read others in the series, so the characters and style of writing are already familiar to me. I don't think a newcomer to the series would find it too difficult to pick things up; however, from the point of view of character development, it may be a good idea to start with an earlier book. If you just want a really good read though, you cannot go far wrong with this book, particularly if you have an interest in or a willingness to be educated about Turkey. Highly recommended

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you enjoy crime fiction set in different countries, you may also like to read Pretty Dead Things also by Barbara Nadel and set in Turkey again; Paper Butterfly by Diane Wei Liang, which is set in China; and Fatal Remedies by Donna Leon, set in Italy.

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Buy River of the Dead by Barbara Nadel at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy River of the Dead by Barbara Nadel at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy River of the Dead by Barbara Nadel at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy River of the Dead by Barbara Nadel at Amazon.com.


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