After being asked by a friend to check out a smell behind his café, Inspector Cetin Ikmen finds the body of a controversial young woman. Her body has been eviscerated and she has flowers in her hair. To add to the complications, Ikmen knows that religious zealots- angry that a Muslim woman, who claims she was cured of leukaemia by the church and now sees Christian-like visions- are on their way to try and take the body. He must act fast in a city that feels like a tinderbox.
To complicate matters, the victim’s family is at odds in terms of religion, history and geography and Ikmen is caught in a spider web both in his investigation and within the police station, as Turkish political society becomes ever more conservative. This is a world in which the priests who knew the victim’s father are at grave risk and the police comes under the scrutiny of a mysterious Order.
I always enjoy some time in Inspector Ikmen’s company; he’s a likeable character doing a difficult job in a city at the mercy of many different factors. An easy-going, heavy smoking, hard-drinking atheist with a cat called Marlboro and (unusually for a detective) a devoted and loving wife, he’s a great protagonist and probably my favourite of all the detectives I read- and that’s definitely saying something considering the devotion I had in my twenties to Rebus. I enjoyed the fast paced plot, too, with its exploration of religion in a city that feels like it’s on a precipice of change and that, culturally, is very different from here. Ikmen (or Cetin Bey, as he is referred to by his friends) is an excellent guide through this, approaching everyone and everything with common sense and a sharp eye.