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Published by Headline, 28
June 2018. ISBN: 978-1-4722 3469-8 (PB)
Istanbul, and the latest in this author’s prizewinning
series featuring Inspector Cetin Ikmen. The disembowelled body of a young woman
has been found in Sulukule, the city’s Roma district. She is Maryam de Mango
and she is famous because she is a Christian and her leukaemia has been cured,
she claims, by the Virgin Mary at the Armenian Church in Istanbul. But the
miracle has not met with the approval of all of Istanbul’s 14 million
inhabitants, some of the city’s Muslim inhabitants had vowed to kill her
particularly since she had been brought up as a Muslim by her mother although
her father is a Roman Catholic. There is little love lost between her parents;
although her mother as a young woman had been comparatively liberal when it
came to religion, in the changing political atmosphere of Turkey in recent
years, she had moved into a much more fundamentalist position, and with her the
couple’s three other children. Maryam’s father, who is of Levantine descent and
whose family had once been prosperous although now no more. He finds much more
sympathy from the priests at his church, particularly Father Esposito. The
division of the family on religious grounds has led to an extremely poisonous
atmosphere within the family, with the father accusing the mother of killing
her daughter, one son accusing his father of sexual intimacy with Maryam, while
the mother insists that Maryam must be buried as a Muslim but the father wants a
Christian burial for his daughter. Relations have become so bad that the
mother, along with the other children, leaves the family home for her own
mother’s devout Muslim home. And there is a secret about Maryam’s parentage which,
when revealed, accounts for her father’s great fondness for her, more so than
for his other children, and also explains her mother’s ambivalent attitude
towards Maryam. And, what becomes known during the course of the police
investigation, Maryam was pregnant. So who is the father?
I have been very much
an admirer of this author’s Arnold and Hakim novels, set in east London.
However, this is the first of the many Ikmen novels and there are a great many
characters. Fortunately there is a list of characters at the beginning of the book
together with an indication as to which of the various ethnic and religious
groups each characters belong. Even so, with all the unfamiliar names, it is
quite difficult to remember who is who and the reader is made fully aware of
the complexity of the population of Istanbul. And something else becomes
apparent: for generations, those various ethnic and religious groups had
existed side-by-side in a live-and-let-live manner, but now growing
intolerance, encouraged by the growing authoritarianism of the Turkish
government, and circulating between those groups like a black ground mist, the
corrosive influence of ISIS. In that sense, I read Incorruptible as being something like an elegy for the former
tolerant Istanbul. And then, after coming to this conclusion and writing this
review, the results of the recent local elections in Istanbul and Ankara (March
2019) show that hopefully there is still a future for liberal values in Turkey.
was born in the East End of London. She rained as an actress, and used to work
in mental health services. She now writes full time and has been a visitor to Turkey
for over twenty years. Barbara writes a series set in Istanbul in which there
are 21 books and an historical series featuring undertaker Francis Hancock. She
received the Crime Writers' Association Silver Dagger for her novel Deadly Web.
born in the U.S. but has lived in the U.K. since she was seven apart from seven
years in The Hague. She read law at university but did not go into practice.
Instead she worked for many years for a firm of law publishers and still does occasional
work for them including taking part in a substantial revision and updating of
her late husband’s legal practitioners’ work on Criminal Evidence published
late 2015. She has also contributed short stories with a distinctly criminal
flavour to two of the Oxford Stories anthologies published by Oxpens Press – a
third story is to be published shortly in another Oxford Stories anthology –
and is now concentrating on her own writing.