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Nadel, Barbara - 'Death by Design'
Hardback: 320 pages (Jan. 2010) Publisher: Headline ISBN: 0755335678

DEATH BY DESIGN is the twelfth in the series of police procedural crime novels by Barbara Nadel, featuring Istanbul detective Inspector Cetin Ikmen. This book is somewhat of a departure from other novels in the series, as it is mostly set in London.

Cetin Ikmen is seriously wounded in a suicide grenade attack during a raid on an a slave labour factory in Istanbul run by Turkish business man and counterfeiter Ulker. The factory produces fake Prada handbags in the most degrading conditions for its workers. The grenade was thrown by a terminally ill young Afghan immigrant who appears to have been recruited by extremist terrorists. When a map of the London Underground is found in the factory, the British Intelligence services and Metropolitan police become rather interested in Ulker's activities in the UK, as Ulker appears to have allowed terrorists to recruit in his factory.

His relationship with his wife in tatters, following traumatic events in RIVER OF THE DEAD, the previous novel in the series, Ikmen agrees to take on a risky undercover mission on behalf of the British Metropolitan police. He poses as an illegal immigrant in an attempt to infiltrate Ulker's London factory. After a hazardous journey to Britain hidden in a truck, Ikmen has to live in a down at heel Turkish B & B in Stoke Newington under an assumed identity as non-English speaking uneducated redundant security guard Cetin Ertegrul, uncle of Ayse, ostensibly an attractive young nail-bar beautician, but in reality an Anglo-Turkish police officer. Ikmen has to lead a lonely double life - he has only his handlers in the Met. and his undercover colleage Ayse to rely on as he is forbidden from telling his family and friends the truth about this assignment.

In the meantime, Anglo-Turkish London Mayor Uner is fervently campaigning against fake goods producers such as Ulker, and has attracted adverse attention not only from Ulker but other sinister organised crime figures. Through his undercover investigation, Ikmen and his British police colleagues become involved in a dangerous race against time to prevent another attack on the London Underground, and end up facing some of the same forces ranged against Mayor Uner.

DEATH BY DESIGN is genuinely gripping, and does not suffer in the least from its move from the usual Turkish series setting. As ever Ikmen is an engaging character, intelligent, sceptical and humane. Ikmen's family, friends and colleagues take somewhat of a backseat, playing only an incidental role in this investigation. Whilst the thriller plot unfolds at a cracking pace, a big theme of this novel is the plight of many illegal immigrants. The author shows the suffering that may lie behind the production of seemingly innocuous cheap knock-off designer items, with workers subject to shocking and degrading work conditions, shackled to their work benches with no access to toilet facilities, and subject to violence by their overseers. Once the slave labour factories are busted by local police, there is no happy ending for the workers, who are liable to deportation to their home countries. This is a thought provoking, well written book, which I highly recommend.

Laura Root, England
May 2010

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 29/05/2010 14:38