Around the World in 8 Book Discussions

It is that melancholy time of year where my crime fiction book discussion group is winding down another year together.  We have had a lot of fun this year with our theme, Around the World in 8 Book Discussions.

Tonight’s book is no exception.  We are in Istanbul, Turkey, tonight discussing the first book in Barbara Nadel’s Inspector Cetin Ikmen series, Belshazzar’s Daughter

The basic plot involves the tortuous death of a Jewish man in the Balat district, an area of the city full of Ladino speaking people who feel that Turkey can provide a refuge from the troubles they face in other parts of the world.  But the neighborhood is rocked when a swastika is painted above the dead man’s body in his own blood.

Inspector Ikmen will prove as interesting to unravel as the plot for most readers.  He is a rumpled, ill-mannered man who on occasion can swing from wildly unpleasant to tender in his emotions.  He smokes one cigarette after another and drinks constantly to stay involved with the criminal world he lives in while managing not to get drunk unless he wants to.  He is paired with his handsome and still-lives-with-his-mother Sergeant Mehmet Suleyman and his childhood friend, coroner Arto Sarkissian.  All the characters in this novel, including the protagonists, are deeply troubled, richly diverse and very complicated which makes great fodder for a book discussion.

As to the antagonists, the character development continues with ties to disturbing historical events like German Nazism and the Russian overthrow of the Tsar.  The Gulcu family plays a prominent part and reading about them occasionally reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe. 

If that is not enough to tantalize you, the setting of Istanbul will captivate with its surprising and seemingly endless environments.  All of this makes a great title for a crime fiction book discussion and will lead your participants to want to read the rest of the story in this continuing series.  What a great way for my book discussion group to end its year.

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About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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