Nadel, Barbara - 'A Noble Killing'
A NOBLE KILLING by Barbara Nadel is a somewhat ironic title, given that the subject matter of this novel is the phenomenon of so-called "honour" killing, where a member of the family, usually female, who is perceived to have transgressed restrictive social rules is killed by other family members. A survey by the Turkish government in 2008 estimated that one such murder a week takes place in Istanbul alone.
In this, the thirteenth outing for Inspector Ikmen and his team, Ikmen and the haughty Ottoman Inspector Suleyman, happen across a devastating fire in a tenement apartment, where the burnt body of a teenage girl is found. The victim is Gozde, the daughter of the apartment's tenants. Gozde's parents seem unshocked by the death, confirming the suspicions of the police and fire chief that this may have been an honour killing carried out at the family's request. Gozde's parents are recent internal migrants to Istanbul from the countryside, and Gozde had a secret boyfriend who lived on her street, and has vanished, leaving his stash of sext photos (sexually explicit text photos) behind him. Through Ikmen's eyes, we see how "incomers" from rural areas have changed the atmosphere of some areas of Istanbul, resulting in a rather more religious and socially conservative ambience, particularly with regards to the treatment of women and young girls. Ikmen is determined to uncover the truth behind the death of Gozde and other suspicious recent deaths of young girls, and battle against the tacit tolerance of these crimes in some quarters of Turkish society.
Meanwhile a violent killing has taken place in a more upscale area of the city - Hamid Bey, a homosexual music teacher has been found stabbed, and two of his young teenage students, the spoilt Ali Reza from a wealthy family and the radicalised Murad from a poorer background, seem to have something to hide from the police. Suleyman neglects his professional duties and deliberately tries to steer the investigation away from Murad due to problems in his personal life: his marriage is in tatters, and he is having an affair with the gypsy artist Gonca. Although the affair appears to be one of the worst kept secrets in Istanbul, Suleyman is terrified by an oblique hint made by Murad's mother. Ikmen's team keep their ears to the ground in the internet cafes and nargile cafes of Istanbul whilst investigating both Gozde and Hamid Bey's deaths.
A NOBLE KILLING provides a very thoughtful consideration of the issues around "honour" killing, as Barbara Nadel looks not only at the perspective of those seeking to eradicate this terrible phenomenon, but casts her net wider, looking at the lives and circumstances of the families that are involved and examines the social and financial pressures that weigh heavily on families of women perceived to have behaved inappropriately. Despite the serious nature of the themes of A NOBLE KILLING, it is a gripping, fast moving and atmospheric read, full of local colour and insider details of Istanbul and its inhabitants, and Ikmen and his team remain engaging, sympathetic characters.
Laura Root, England