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.


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