If it ever stops raining and snowing up here in the Sierra, Jakob Arjouni’s terrific crime novel, Kismet, will be right near the top of my summer beach or cabin read recommendations. Arjouni’s protagonist, private eye Kayankaya, is just the sort of gumshoe that inspired the tradition of noir films, all staring Bogart. Arjouni’s Kemal Kayankaya mysteries have won him the German Thriller Prize.
I have no basis for commenting on the book’s translation, other than it certainly worked for this reader. Without ever having been to Frankfurt, Arjouni describes Kayankaya’s bailiwick with such familiarity that the reader will swear that yes, that’s exactly right. Now I’m not really sure I haven’t visited Frankfurt, or at least driven past it.
Kayankaya is the perfect modern day, hybrid sort of private detective. He’s a Turkish immigrant, but raised by Germans, and has a keen eye for things domestic and foreign. Without all the gadgetry of James Bond, he manages to involve himself in some pretty sophisticated and politically dangerous skullduggery carried out by a Croatian-led Mafia. In order to take on this case, he has to put his current job, a search for a missing pooch, on the back burner.
It’s hard not to recommend a book containing the following: “Then the door was flung open and Popeye on coke burst in. Muscular in a T-shirt, tracksuit bottoms, trainers like small, brightly colored cruise missiles, shaved head, a chin fit to knock doors down, and eyes with their pupils moving as if they had to register the tempo of three hundred herds of white elephants charging his way.” This guy is fun – not the fellow who entered the room, the detective, Kayankaya.
There are lots of good guys who, on occasion, can be mistaken for the bad guys, and enough bad guys to suit any thrill seeker. There are pals of numerous genders, women of all ages and attitudes, and a pace of writing that never wavers. All that’s missing is a giant container of buttered popcorn, but you can’t win ’em all, and I can’t wait for Kayankaya’s next case.