Friday, April 22, 2011


Kati Hirschel is the owner of a crime fiction bookshop in Istanbul, a city where she was born before returning with her parents to Germany at the age of seven. She returned to Istanbul and has now been living there for thirteen years reacting like a local 'Istanbullu' to the daily trials and pleasures of the city.

Her old friend from university Petra Vogel contacts her, because she is in Istanbul to make a movie. A few days later Kurt Muller, the film's director, is found murdered in his luxurious hotel suite, at the Hotel Bosphorus. Someone has thrown an electric iron into his bath. Kati decides in the tradition of Miss Marple to investigate.

This novel is full of interesting details about the complex relationship, and cultural differences between Turks and Germans. It could even be considered more of a social commentary and travelogue than a crime fiction novel. Kati Hirschel herself is a confused character; a Turkish citizen at home in Istanbul, but never fully Turkish, and also as is explained not fully German.

There is a lot of classic stereotyping in the narrative and sharp dialogue, which at times does get a bit annoying, for instance there really must be some Germans with a sense of humour. ;o) Do Turks only eat kebabs and toasted cheese? Do Germans only eat schnitzel, and sausage, while drinking beer?

"A German without beer in the house is like a football team without a manager," he said.

But Kati's mother lives in Berlin and her attitude to 'Gastarbeiters' is not much better.

"And now they're using our money to set up integration courses for the Turks. To be paid for by Mrs Hirschel."

Kati's burbling information dumps about friends, fatty kebabs, potential lovers, police corruption, and local mobsters hold up the progress of the plot, and some of her behaviour is frankly stupid. [End of chapter 5]
But as the book progresses Kati calms down, the reader can enjoy the bustling atmosphere of the city, and her character starts to grow on you.
Although this debut was slightly disappointing, with its exotic location and its feisty female investigator the series has the potential to develop hopefully in the Turkish location. I don't think readers would want Kati Hirschel to make too many trips to Berlin, and become yet another Northern European detective.

Author Esmahan Aykol was born in 1970 in Edirne, Turkey, and now lives in Istanbul and Berlin. Hotel Bosphorus is the first of three Kati Hirschel mystery novels, and has been translated into English by Ruth Whitehouse.

: the European Union should stand firm because Turkey has set its sights on becoming a member and is taking decisive steps in that direction. That was why the Turkish police were showing respect for human rights.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many thanks, Norman, for your honest and skilled appraisal. I was wondering what to do about this one, actually. I'll probably read it, just because the setting and premise are interesting.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Maxine Clarke said...

I'm just skimming this review as I am planning to read this book soon - good review, from what I can see - and your conclusion seems to agree with some others that I've read.

12:03 PM  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Thanks for the honest appraisal.

I had been looking forward to reading this to get a flavor of the city and the region, and to learn a bit more.

I guess I'll still read it, though will probably have to wait a long time for it to reach the States.

And, you're right -- having a character in Turkey is a draw, but not creating another Northern European series. That is the whole point, to read more about Turkey and all that entails in the course of a mystery.

1:57 AM  

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