‘On the Bone’, a mystery crime novel set in the Turkish city of Istanbul, is a novel full of controversial topics which many may not wish to read about.
The topic of human transgression is rife in this book and includes many taboo subjects that could especially offend those of a certain religion or those with a weak stomach.
Intrigued? Want to know more?
The Story of ‘On the Bone’
“Could guilt kill?” (Pg. 1)
Well can it? People do bad things all the time but do they feel that bad that it becomes a consequence of their death?
I think that this would be hard to prove, although it is often said that people die of a broken heart so why would this be any different?
Űmit Kavaş, a well-known progressive thinker in certain circles, is found dead in Istikial Caddesi, home to Istanbul’s party streets, but what was the cause?
“He felt hot, then cold, then hot again. His chest hurt. Indigestion, his body rejecting food it hadn’t been designed to eat. Or had it? Of course it hadn’t. He’d known it was wrong. But at the same time he had been curious.” (pg. 1)
What did he eat?
From page 1 you are drawn in, trying to guess what he could have ingested that would not only make him ill but also question himself.
Before we find out any more we are introduced to one of the main characters, Cetin Ikmen, the detective that will shortly be in-charge of the investigation into the young man’s death.
Being set in Turkey, where Islam is one of the main religions, it naturally becomes an underlying theme of the novel.
When we first meet Cetin Ikmen, he and his wife are having a conversation about contaminated food sources from the Anatolia Gold company.
“Product giant Anatolia Gold had owned up to selling tinned products that contain traces of pork.” (pg. 4)
At this point I am sure that Cetin Ikmen believed that this was going to be the most controversial food discussion he would be having that day. That is until he speaks to a pathologist who has just completed an autopsy of Mr Kavaş.
“’Human flesh? Are you sure?’
‘Absolutely,’ the doctor said. ‘And what’s more, it has been cooked and was accompanied by an apple and plum sauce… Was the apple included because it is claimed by some that human flesh is similar to pork?’” (Pg. 5)
The idea of cannibalism is just too much for many people to comprehend; why would someone want to eat the flesh of another human? Is this a case of ignorance? Perhaps Kavaş believed he was trying pork. He knew what he had done was wrong, but was it wrong because of his religious beliefs or because he had committed an illegal act?
What’s more – who is the poor victim?
Whilst alive, Űmit Kavaş had chosen to live in the more liberal area of Karakőy and thought nothing of socialising with the intellectuals, artists and potential atheists that lived opposite him in a squat known as the Art House.
For conservative Muslims, the Art House was heavily frowned upon and often subjected to bouts of abuse. Burak, Mustafa and Radwan are three of the main tormentors believing that they had a right to persecute others for being different.
Then two of these boys disappear, leaving the third one confused; had they have been taken by the squat or ISIS?
Why ISIS? Well, it would seem that Burak in particular had a fascination with the movement. He wanted to be like those so-called warriors. He wanted to become a martyr for the cause.
Does he succeed or has something more sinister taken place?
As Cetin Ikmen and his team continue to investigate the cannibalism issue it is not only the actions of the three boys incessantly trying to cause trouble that he has to question, certain dignitaries are also thrown into the limelight for all the wrong reasons.
It would seem that many well-known people around the city are flocking to see a new wonder chef, one that has arrived from the US and has set up home at the Imperial Oriental hotel. He is a chef that likes to push the boundaries gastronomically; creating unusual dishes never before seen is Istanbul.
After visiting the restaurant for himself, to help potentially move the investigation forward, Cetin Ikmen has one burning question – how far is chef Mystow really prepared to go?
Would I recommend this book?
This is a novel where several storylines are all intertwined and therefore your concentration is essential. Within one chapter you could find yourself reading about the murder inquiry, the young boys and then a dialogue between two of the older gentlemen featured within the book. Add to this the unusual names and, like me, it may take you some time to truly get into the book.
Regardless of how long it took me however, my interest had been piqued. I needed to know who the ’human meal’ was and what really happened to the young boys.
Barbara Nadel is a great writer who makes me question things. This is not a simple whodunit or a crime thriller that lets you know who the victim is from the very beginning. In fact, if you want to know who became dinner for others you will need to keep reading until the very end.
Travelling Book Junkie’s Rating: ***
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