cover image Happy Birthday, Turk!

Happy Birthday, Turk!

Jakob Arjouni. Fromm International, $19.95 (154pp) ISBN 978-0-88064-148-7

Like many a translated European crime novel, this American edition comes with overblown references to Chandler and Hammett and is replete with idiosyncratic prose stylings that, whether deliberate or artifacts of the translation from the German, serve to perplex rather than illuminate. Ahmed Hamul was a Turkish laborer stabbed to death in Frankfurt and suspected by his family of being a heroin dealer. Kemal Kayankaya is the shamus, born in Turkey but raised in Germany, hired by the victim's wife to find the truth about the killing. Arjouni leads his readers through the dark center of early-'80s Frankfurt with its strippers, hookers and ersatz Americana in the shape of fried chicken and cheeseburgers. The language, while briskly utilized, is often stretched (a refrigerator resembles a pack of cigarettes beside the large body of a barmaid) and every genre cliche about the hard-drinking, smart-mouthed gumshoe is shamelessly overemployed. Frankfurt might as well be Pittsburgh, and Kayankaya a TV creation. (Oct.)