Barbara Nadel talks Partners in Crime – Cetin Ikmen and Mumtaz Hakim

Barbara Nadel

Barbara Nadel talks Partners in Crime for publication of her latest Ikmen mystery, ON THE BONE.

Posted on January 13, 2016 in Guest Author
Tags: Author Content, Partners in Crime

I thought a lot about with whom I could partner up my two series detectives, Cetin Ikmen, the cynical, hard smoking, secular Istanbul detective and Mumtaz Hakim the devout Muslim, London based PI. And then it came to me – why not put them together.

Although they work in different countries, the problems they face in their respective cities are, in some cases, very similar. Like London, Istanbul is expanding rapidly, it’s becoming expensive and, alongside a new urban middle class, a desperate ‘under-class’ is also trying to scrape a living. Drug abuse, theft, corruption and the erosion of traditional neighbourhoods add to the tension, as does the ever present threat of terrorism. Both cities have, to some extent, lost their souls to turbo capitalism and neither Ikmen nor Mumtaz like that. As people, such apparent disregard for the poor offends them, and as professionals the fragmentation of their societies provides them with the type of work no-one in their right mind would really want.

In his long career on the streets of Istanbul, Cetin Ikmen has seen his country survive military coups, purges, the ascendancy of the secular elite and now the rise of political Islam. As an atheist, albeit one who believes that the supernatural is a real force in people’s lives, he feels as if Turkey is making a mistake by aligning itself with Islamic nations in the Middle East. Politics and religion should, he feels, be entirely separate.

That said, he is nevertheless, like his creator, fascinated by the phenomenon of religion. Some of his friends are religious people, some are even priests, rabbis and imams. And so he’d jump at the chance to work with a religious Muslim woman, like Mumtaz, who covers her head. What would interest him still further is that Mumtaz is also a highly educated woman with a degree in psychology. He would wonder how she squares that with a faith he sees as anti-intellectual.

For her part, I think that Mumtaz would love to take the opportunity of working with a man from a Muslim country who is not a believer. As a person from a Bangladeshi family resident in London, she would have comes across a lot of atheists, but mainly from the ranks of her white, British friends. A man from a Muslim country who doesn’t believe, would be something new and interesting to her. It would also open up a debate between them about issues like modernity in Muslim societies and why it has only taken root in certain places and affects only very specific aspects of life.

Ikmen likes working with women. One of his sergeants, Ayse Farsakoglu, was a woman who he came to love as a daughter and whose death he mourned with a terrible intensity. Gender equality is something Ikmen has always promoted. He feels that with a woman or women on his team, his actions are more informed and balanced. But he’s never had a devout woman in the department before and he would struggle with the fact that Mumtaz is both religious and independent. He’d also struggle not to challenge her beliefs at every opportunity. So Mumtaz would, at times, feel under siege. What would please her would be the novelty of having a Muslim man treat her in the same way that her current partner, Lee Arnold, is sometimes wont to do. Ikmen will swear, he will smoke, he will shout but he won’t use sexist language and he will sit on himself really hard so that he doesn’t treat her as if she’s made of glass. She, in her turn, will want to prove to him that Muslim women are as tough, competent and independent as their secular sisters. What they will both agree upon violently, is the need for society to change in order to combat extremism and that that process begins with empowering and educating the poor. They might come at this problem from different directions, but their aims are entirely uniform.

As partners, Ikmen and Mumtaz would not have an easy ride, but it would be one that is fascinating and I’d really like to give that a go one day.

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