Belshazzar's Daughter, by Barbara Nadel
Written by
Barbara Morrison
October 2012
Written by
Barbara Morrison
October 2012

I recently started a novel with a lovely and intriguing cover, an interesting title, and glowing blurbs. Before I'd read even twenty pages, though, we were on our third time period and third set of characters. Maybe my attention span has gotten shorter, but that just required too much up-front work from me, and I discarded the book without going further.

I think this is one reason why I like mysteries: they stay closer to the classical unities than most novels. There is one main action: solving the murder. Mysteries usually are centered on a limited number of settings: a police station or detective's office, the scene of the crime, the den of the prime suspect.  And they normally cover no more than a few days. Now, I'm not a stickler. I love P.D. James's books which sometimes don't get around to the murder till halfway through the book. I expect the detective to range far and wide during the investigation. I welcome flashbacks and the layering of past and present. But I want to invest myself in characters whom I'll be able to accompany for the whole journey. A series, like James's Dalgliesh series, offers an even wider scope for the journey and an immediate commitment to familiar characters.

This 1999 book is the first in Nadel's series set in Istanbul featuring Çetin İkmen, a police inspector who smokes and drinks brandy steadily throughout the day leaving a trail of nasty overfull ashtrays and empty bottles littering his office. Continue reading . . .

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