Belshazzar’s Daughter – Review

Turkish police inspector Çetin Ikmen has to solve a murder that appears to have anti-Semitic overtones in Barbara Nadel’s Belshazzar’s Daughter (Felony & Mayhem, 1999), the first in the Inspector Ikmen series.

Despite the presence of a large swastika drawn in blood drawn next to the bed of an eviscerated Leonid Meyer, denizen of Istanbul’s poor Balat quarter, Inspector Ikmen takes nothing at face value. Ikmen has two prime suspects whom he traces to the scene of the crime – a bungling English school teacher and a German immigrant with Nazi sympathies – yet he refuses to jump to conclusions despite pressure from the Israeli Embassy for quick results.

Into this mix of suspects, Nadel adds a family of Russian émigrés, who still think servants are a subhuman species. Throughout Nadel’s Belshazzar’s Daughter, readers learn what a cosmopolitan society there is in Istanbul with English expatriates, German immigrants, Armenians, Jews and Russian émigrés playing significant roles in the book.

Belshazzar’s Daughter does present readers with more than a glimpse into Istanbul. We learn in the book’s pages that as late as the 1990s that Sephardic Jews still spoke Ladino, the language they spoke in Spain before being expelled from that country in the 15th century. Muslim rulers of what would become modern-day Turkey allowed Jewish immigrants to live in their country and practice their faith. Russian émigrés came to Turkey for safety as well and the family Nadel describes adds flair and speculation to Inspector Ikmen’s investigation. Whether or not one feels that Istanbul is European and/or Middle Eastern, Nadel’s Belshazzar’s Daughter will leave you wanting to read more about Istanbul and Inspector Ikmen.

Originally reviewed on Ruth Paget’s Blog Belle Vie Reviews and More

Last Sunday I interviewed murder mystery writer J. Sydney Jones about his series and others on Asnycnow Radio 3’s Culture with Ruth Paget program on blogtalk radio.  You can listen to a podcast of that program at