It is always gratifying to emerse oneself into a totally alien culture and become so absorbed into that world that one feels that one could navigate with ease any twists and turns that might come up while one is there. That is the feeling that I get when I read the wonderful series of mysteries by the British author Barbara Nadel featuring Turkist police inspector Cetin Ikmen. I know in the back of my mind that I would be completely out of my element in the palaces and the back alleys of Istanbul, but Nadel paints such a complete picture of these places that I feel that I would be right at home, and her policeman is such an ethical and competent detective that I feel that I would love to bump into him and have a conversation about his latest case or his large family (9 children) or his Albanian mother who is reputed to have had magical powers which Ikmen has inherited, or any number of topics about which he is knowledgeable.
The Ikmen series runs to at least 9 titles and I am sure there are more to come. They are in cronological order but it is possible to wade in anywhere and navigate the story without getting lost and wishing that you could have read the series in order.
A particularily delightful story which shows off all the talents of Cetin Ikmen is Death by Design. The action takes place in both Istanbul, Turkey and London, England. The plot involves the smuggling and enslaving of illegal aliens to work in nightmarish conditions producing counterfeit goods. The descriptions of the conditions of these illegal workplaces and of the efforts to close them down are some of the most compelling fictional narratives that I have read in a long time.
When I look for "something to read" I want a character and a setting that I would like to spend a good deal of time with. Nadel's Inspector Ikmen series meets that standard in every way.
Death by Design