A Kati Hirschel Mystery by Esmahan Aykol
Review: When an old friend from Germany visits Turkey to film a movie, bookstore owner Kati Hirschel thinks she'll have an opportunity to catch up, never expecting to be drawn into a murder investigation, in Hotel Bosphorus (original Turkish title: Kitapçi Dükkani), the first mystery in this series by Esmahan Aykol.
Kati hasn't heard from Petra in years, Petra being a famous actress and all, so is pleasantly surprised when she gets her call. But she wonders why Petra has looked her up after all this time: "Clearly, since she was calling me, either she had not become big-headed, or she was no longer famous. Perhaps she had lost her celebrity status and become one of those unfortunates who live on the famous German state handouts. Maybe she was seeking a way out of this social security nightmare and calling to ask me for a loan or a job. Whatever the situation, she had picked the right person." Or none of the above. Petra tells her she's doing a new film on location in Istanbul, and would love to see her again and chat like two old friends. But soon after Petra arrives and takes a room at the Hotel Bosphorus, the film's director is found murdered, and Petra the prime suspect. Kati knows a thing or two about crimes and how to solve them — she owns a mystery bookstore, after all — and takes it upon herself to prove Petra innocent.
Narrated by Kati, the book primarily takes the form of Kati catching up with the reader on the events surrounding her old friend's visit — and, of course, the murder! — over a cup of coffee at her favorite çayci (teahouse). It is very chatty, with Kati wandering somewhat aimlessly from topic to topic, never pausing to take a breath and allowing the reader doesn't get a word in edgewise, as it were. And while this style of narrative is entertaining at first, it gets a little tiresome after a while. Kati spends much of the early book introducing how a German woman fits into Turkish society and returns to this theme now and again as if it somehow relates to her ability to investigate the murder. True, this book can be read — and enjoyed — as a "slice of life"-style novel, but it is marketed as a mystery … and most readers will likely pick it up as such.
As to the murder mystery itself, Kati talks about everyone involved as if they were characters from one of the books she sells in her store. In a way, that's a reasonably clever way of handling them, Kati trying to identify with what she knows best, but it also doesn't give them their own identities, that they're merely generic players in conventional scenes. And that's probably what is most disappointing about Hotel Bosphorus — as a crime novel — is that there's little sense of originality in what should be (for American audiences, at least) an exotic and unfamiliar setting for a mystery.
Acknowledgment: Bitter Lemon Press provided a copy of Hotel Bosphorus for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Hotel Bosphorus: Istanbul, Turkey
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Hotel Bosphorus by Esmahan Aykol — A Kati Hirschel Mystery
Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: July 2011
List Price: $14.95