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Barbara Nadel, 2012

In Dead of Night, the fourteenth in her series of crime novels featuring Inspector Çetin İkmen, Barbara Nadel sends her chain-smoking, middle-aged policeman and his handsome sidekick Mehmet Süleyman on a jaunt to Detroit where they attend a conference on policing in a city that once “boasted” more murders than anywhere else in the USA. It’s a fascinating diversion, not just for the insight it offers into a post-industrial apocalypse of a landscape that may just be on the cusp of recovery but also because it introduces readers to the Melungeons, a group of mixed-race hillbillies, some of whom claim descent from Ottoman sailors shipwrecked off the coast of Florida.

The Melungeon story is vintage Nadel, disinterring a quirky aspect of Turkish history that few of us would have known about and then breathing new life into it. At the same time a second strand story develops back in İstanbul where Ayşe Farsakoğlu, the policewoman eternally in love with Süleyman, is tasked with monitoring the Internet fanbase of a released serial rapist hailing from Sulukule, the old gypsy quarter of the city that was, until recently, squeezed inside the old city walls near Edirnekapı but that has now been completely rebuilt to accommodate a better-heeled group of residents.

Nadel’s strengths lie in strong character development and the creation of local atmosphere. For those who know İstanbul well, though, there’s always the thrill of being able to pick up on familiar locations, in this case the Black Sea (Karadeniz) Pide Restaurant, a long-standing hangout for budget travellers in Sultanahmet, and its complete opposite, the posh and wonderful Topaz in Gümüşsuyu. Fans of the series will have trouble putting this one down.

Coming soon…adventures in the Pera Palace Hotel.

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