Grim, gritty and plausible

2012-10-17 00:00


A Private Business

Barbara Nadel



BARBARA Nadel is the creator of the long-running and delightful Inspector Ikmen series of crime novels, set in Istanbul and unpacking the layers of that most atmospheric and beguiling of cities.

Here, however, she turns her attention to London in what is apparently the first of a new series. But not the whole of London, and not what the tourists see.

A Private Business is set in the tough old East End, at the time of the novel being ruthlessly tidied up to host the Olympic Games. And although the Games seem to have been a success, here we see the run-up and the deeply cynical attitudes of those who are watching their familiar streets being changed.

Among the most cynical is ex-cop turned private investigator, Lee Arnold. Mind you, he’s pretty cynical about everything, not just the Olympic development. Less so is his assistant, Muslim widow Mumtaz Hakim, by far the most appealing character in the book.

Lee and Mumtaz are hired by a foul-mouthed female stand-up comic who is trying to make a comeback after years off the circuit, but who is afraid she is being stalked.

She has also become involved with a very fringe evangelical church, of which there seem to be several operating in the area, some popular with Zimbabwean exiles.

There is a lot going on in this book — the maybe stalker, the extremely dubious pastors of various of the cultish churches, the Zimbabwean connection, Mumtaz and Lee’s personal problems, the police investigation into a man dubbed “the Olympic flasher”, and the violent riots that took place in Britain last year.

Nadel doesn’t always manage a seamless link between the various plot strands, but even if her characters and setting lack the charm of Ikmen’s Istanbul, this grim and gritty tale is a plausible and interesting thriller.


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