Book review: Land of the Blind by Barbara Nadel

Land of the Blind
Land of the Blind
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The wave of demonstrations and civil unrest which swept across Turkey in the summer of 2013 provides the dramatic backdrop to a gripping new crime thriller from award-winning author Barbara Nadel.

Nadel, a former actress, has forged a successful writing career with her atmospheric Inspector İkmen thrillers which explore the dark underbelly of Turkey’s most exciting and exotic city.

Set against the 2013 uprising in Istanbul’s Gezi Park, Land of the Blind is the 17th crime thriller featuring Inspectors Çetin İkmen and Mehmet Süleyman and takes us deep into the heart of a restless city where old and new collide, and the fallout can be deadly.

İkmen, now in his sixties, is a masterful creation, an anachronistic, chain-smoking, crumpled sleuth whose shining intellect and razor-sharp cynicism have not yet been blunted by Istanbul’s new breed of citizens.

An old-fashioned Turk who puts friends and family first, he is impressed not by wealth or possessions but by the single-minded pursuit of justice.

Here we find the good inspector has been dragged from his bed to examine the body of a woman found in the ruins of old Constantinople’s Hippodrome. The woman, clutching a piece of red stone, is lying in what remains of a ruined gallery where the charioteers used to robe before the Games began.

She has only recently given birth but, despite a search, there is no sign of the baby. Had the child died with its mother or had someone taken the baby away?

Inspector İkmen discovers that she was Ariadne Savva, a Byzantine specialist on a crusade to protect the historic but now squalid areas of Istanbul that her enemy, property developer Ahmet Öden, wants to destroy and rebuild.

As İkmen searches for the lost child and uncovers the events leading up to Ariadne’s death, the people of Istanbul rise up in protest against their government in Gezi Park and the city lurches into uproar and lawlessness.

Amid the turmoil, Ikmen and Süleyman must unravel a tale of ancient hostility and modern desires to find the truth concealed within the secret history of their ancient city.

Nadel’s personal love affair with this chaotic and colourful city shines through in her engaging and authentic stories which use the busy streets and breathtaking landmarks as powerful backdrops to well-plotted murder mysteries rooted in Turkey’s complex social and political systems.

İkmen’s investigations take us into the heat, anger and anarchy of the Gezi Park demonstrations, adding tension and a remarkable sense of time and place to an intriguing and menacing thriller.

Detective work at its most quirky, captivating and intelligent…

(Headline, paperback, £7.99)