Dead of Night is the 14th book to feature Barbara Nadel’s brilliant and rather fecund Inspector Çetin İkmen, and his suave sidekick Mehmet Süleyman. At this point in the series you might expect any writer to flag a little, but Nadel shows no signs of fatigue. She has produced a complex slice of crime fiction which successfully mixes historical quirkiness with hard-hitting social commentary.
Dead of Night sees İkmen and Süleyman leave their regular Istanbul beat to attend a conference in Detroit and the culture shock hits the second they land. America is colder and dirtier than either expected. While visiting a rundown project being coaxed towards regeneration by a tenacious resident, they encounter Ezekiel Goins, an elderly man whose life has been destroyed by the murder of his son. He blames a local white supremacist group, headed by a now octogenarian half-Jewish anti-Semite, but by dint of the man’s influence he has gone unpunished for decades. Ezekiel feels a bond with the Turkish policemen; he is a Melungeon, descended from Turkish sailors shipwrecked in America centuries earlier. To him, that makes them kin and he’s convinced they are the only people who can avenge his son. İkmen is carrying the burden of grief from his own son’s death and Ezekiel arouses enough sympathy in him to want to pursue the matter.
Meanwhile, back in Istanbul Ayşe Farsakoğlu is plunging into the dark world of internet fandom, monitoring the supporters springing up around recently released serial rapist, Ali Kuban, the Beast of Edirnekapi. The man himself is too old to be a danger to women, Ayşe feels, but she sees evidence of genuine threat among his fans. When an online status update promises a spectacular event in Sulukule, scene of Kuban’s final atrocity, Ayşe goes against her superior’s orders and investigates. She puts her own safety on the line, and makes a completely unexpected discovery in the abandoned gypsy quarter.
Ayşe misses İkmen’s guidance but events in Detroit have taken a shocking turn and Süleyman returns to Istanbul alone. İkmen’s curiosity about the unsolved murder of Elvis Goins has piqued the interest of local detective Gerald Diaz and the men are in agreement that it appears linked with the recent death of another youngster. Then Diaz is gunned down, after sending a text to İkmen saying ‘Got him’. But who? And why send it to İkmen rather than one of his colleagues? As the investigation progresses, via rundown slums, junkyards and funeral parlours, it emerges that perhaps not all of Diaz’s colleagues are as clean as they should be, and that kind of corruption doesn’t come into the light easily.
This is the first Barbara Nadel book I’ve read but I didn’t once feel lost, largely because she peppers the narrative with enough information about the characters’ backgrounds and dynamics to draw new readers in – and make you want to attack her back catalogue. Dead of Night is atypical within the series, being set mainly in America, and I’m looking forward to seeing İkmen and Süleyman in their natural surroundings. That said, Nadel’s Detroit is vividly rendered and clearly well researched and fans of The Wire will love the way she skilfully excavates the unexpected links within the city’s fractured communities.
Barbara Nadel is an accomplished storyteller and Dead of Night is a spiderweb of a book, lots of sticky strands perfectly woven together. With short chapters chopping back and forth between Detroit and Istanbul the story really barrels along and you will find yourself saying ‘just one more chapter.’