May 8, 2010

Book Review: Arabesk by Barbara Nadel, a Turkish mystery

Arabesk Arabesk by Barbara Nadel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An excellent Turkish mystery set in Istanbul,  it describes a young Kurdish movie star torn between family and religious loyalties and his love for an older singer, Tansu. The novel shows some of the cultural differences between the Turks and the Kurdish minority and differences among the Kurds themselves.

Book description: Confined to his home on sick-leave (and prevented from sneaking his beloved brandy and cigars), Inspector Ikmen of the Istanbul police is forced to hand his latest case over to his protege, the newly promoted Suleyman. That's to bad, because the aristocratic Suleyman knows nothing about Arabesque, the throbbing, deeply sentimental music that is adored by Turkey's working classes, and the case is drenched in those mournful melodies. The latest musical sensation, a secret marriage, a murdered bride, an again mistress and a father driven mad with grief and guilt... it's all so melodramatic that Suleyman can barely keep his lip from curling. Ikmen is unashamed of his own plebeian tastes, but both cops eventually come to one conclusion: At the real heart of this operatic catastrophe are the conflicts inherent to the city itself.

Summary: The young Kurdish wife of popular film star Erol Urfa is found dead, poisoned by cyanide hidden in an almond pastry. The first suspect is the person who found her, a retarded man Cengiz Temiz, a neighbor of the dead woman. Inspector Ikmen and his colleagues at the Turkish police decide that Cengiz is mentally incapable of carrying out such a careful murder plan. They search for other suspects. One is Erol's lover, the famous singer Tansu. Tansu and Erol are from the north, and are Kurdish. This fact is a major part of the plot and feeds into a motive for the murder of Erol's wife, Ruya.

My comments: I found it was a clever plot. Though I guessed the culprit about three-quarters of the way through, I couldn't guess the motive. That's pretty good for a mystery, to not know until the end of the book! I learned more about the Kurds, that they have strong family and religious loyalties, and that some are considered more superstitious than other Arabs.

The only difficulty in reading Arabesk was keeping the many Turkish and Kurdish names straight. There is Cengiz, the suspect, and detectives Cetin, Coktin, Cohen. Inspector Ikmen and his protege Suleyman are easier to recognize, but keeping people separate from names of streets, building, and places got to be a challenge. However, that didn't prevent me from finishing and enjoying this unusual and entertaining novel.

Challenge: Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge, Support your Local Library Challenge

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3 comments:

  1. I enjoy books that give me some perspective on different cultures. I had the exact same problem in regards to names when I read a book that was placed in Afghanistan.

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  2. I love all things Turkish, so am adding this book to my ever growing list!

    Great review!

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  3. I particularly enjoy fiction that also teaches me about other cultures. AND my son and I are going to Turkey next year! So this is going on my 'read list'. Thanks for the review!

    jewell330 at aim dot com

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