Istanbul: the sight that greets Inspector Cetin Ikmen is horrific. The girl was burnt alive in her own bedroom. Was it suicide or murder? When her father shows no emotion at the death of his seventeen-year-old daughter, Ikmen starts to dig deeper.
Another series that I really should be doing a better job keeping up with as Barbara Nadel writes about Turkey in a way that's vivid, believable and extremely entertaining.
A NOBLE KILLING is the 13th book in the Inspector Cetin Ikmen series, although it might be fairer to combine that with Inspector Mehmet Suleyman who seems to have raised his profile in this book. (Needless to say I'm behind, so I'm not sure if this is a phenomena in this book or something that's been ongoing). Not, I suspect, would Suleyman be that thrilled with his starring role here as most of the concentration is firmly on his extra-marital activities.
The core subject matter of A NOBLE KILLING is a confrontational issue - the so called "honour" killing of young girls who have, according to their family's belief in restrictive social rules, behaved immorally. There are other elements built into the story - marital infidelity, the class structure that drives relationships, homosexuality, the tensions between secular and Islamic Turkey and the difference that a shift of people from more conservative rural areas into Istanbul is having on areas of the city. Whilst the subject matter is, frequently unflinching, the style of telling the story is measured, often demonstrating the difference between fanatical adherence to an interpretation of faith, and more tolerant and accepting attitudes.
The book starts out with the burning death of Gozde, the teenage daughter of a couple from rural Turkey. Inspector Ikmen is aware of a number of suspicious deaths of young girls, with the coincidence that all of their families become financially constrained after the girls die. Whilst there are some sectors of Turkish society that have always supported these sorts of honour killings, often calling upon young family members to commit the murder as they are less likely to incur heavy sentences, it seems that there's something even more sinister going on and Ikmen is determined to stamp it out. At the same time, a violent killing takes place in another part of the city, the victim a homosexual music teacher, stabbed in his bed. Two of his teenage students again draw the eye of the police. One boy is the spoilt son of a wealthy family; the other the son of drug addicts, his mother a street prostitute, he has become a radicalised Muslim. The investigations into both threads of the book are, however, hampered by Suleyman's professional neglect and interference, as well as the complicity of the the girl's own families in their deaths.
Given that A NOBLE KILLING is tackling the difficult subject of religious and social dictates that are used to control, subjugate and frequently kill women and girls who do not adhere to the "rules" established by others, it is a careful, considered and thoughtful book. There is consideration given to the background of the victims and their families, to the nature of personal relationships where there is a power imbalance and to the consequences of actions or inactions on those family members. Nadel also contrasts the more fanatical, strict side of Turkish and Islamic society well with the liberal, tolerant aspects. She uses different aspects of society and the people to do that. Drawing a connection between familial dictates and Suleyman's gypsy lover Gonca, as well as taking that tension right into a family with one religious, devout brother and his policeman, non-devout brother learning to live with each other's beliefs and lifestyle. They are particularly illustrative touches, in what is a fast moving, atmospheric and gripping book which provides a reader with an immersion feeling for Turkey, it's inhabitants, and a society dealing with a very current day challenge.