Tag Archives: Book review

One Man, One Murder by Jakob Arjouni

A Kayankaya Thriller                  


To rescue a kidnapped prostitute, Kemal Kayankaya must face some of Germany’s most depraved and dangerous criminals. Fortunately, some of them are his friends. . . .

OneManOneMurderHard-boiled prose, lean, clean dialogue, hard bitten as Sam Spade, cynically cool as Philip Marlowe. Kemal Kayankaya is a worthy successor to the great noir characters and hard boiled detectives of the past. This isn’t a parody or a cheap imitation, Jakob Arjouni has created the real thing. Beautiful!

Jakob Arjouni tells a tale that could have come off of the mean streets of Chandler’s Los Angles or Hammet’s San Francisco, or Chicago or New York or Boston but it takes place in Frankfurt, Germany – the dullest town in Germany, except it isn’t. One Man, One Murder was originally written in 1991 as Ein Mann, ein Mord. Melville International Crime provided me with this Galley of the translation and after reading it, it’s jumped to the top of the list of ‘Best Surprise Book’ of the year. In an original voice, Arjouni tells such a true story and he tells it so well, maintaining tension throughout, dialogue that is  clever, witty, and sad and an atmosphere that James M. Cain would have been proud of.

Kemal Kayankaya is the orphaned son of a Turkish garbage collector, a German Citizen, born and bred. But, because he is of Turkish extraction he encounters suspicion and racism wherever he goes. He meets them with a smart assed attitude and a cynical, jaded tongue.

A piece of dialog while Kemal is trying to rent an office:

“Well then, Mr. Kayankaya, I see you are a private investigator. That’s an interesting name…Kayankaya.” “Not really that interesting. Just Turkish.” I see.” The saccharine content of his smile increases; his eye slits are no wider than a razor’s edge.”Turkish. A Turkish private investigator? What do you know…I hope you don’t mind my asking, but – how come you speak such good German?” “It’s the only language I know. My parents died when I was a child, and I was raised by a German family.” “But – but you are a Turk? I mean —“ “ I have a German passport, if that makes you feel better.”…..”Mind showing it to me?”

And this from when he meets his new client:

“How did you find me? “ He looked startled….”You must have checked the Yellow Pages. But why Kayankaya, why not Muller?” “Because she is Thai, and I thought…” “You thought Thailand and Turkey both start with a ‘T’?” “How could I have known you’re a Turk? On the contrary, I expected – but…”

…They visit exhibitions in New York and go on safaris in Africa: they smoke hashish in Cairo, eat Japanese food, and purpose to teach democracy to Muscovites; they are “international” down to their Parisian underwear – but they are not able to recognize a Turk unless he is carrying a garbage can under his arm and leading a string of ten unwashed brats.


This book would have worked so well as just a comic take on the American Hardboiled detective transplanted to Europe in the late 80’s; as a cynical updating of Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, but Arjouni had loftier goals. And he achieved them in spades. Sam Spades. It is Arjouni’s willingness to confront serious social issues and display them in the light of a hardboiled/noir novel, with an avoidance of clichés, intelligent observation, and dialog that is both realistic and acid-tinged. And to do it all without preaching. He kind of reminds me of the great Walter Mosley in that regard.


Another piece of dialog where Kayankaya channels Sam Spade in his violent reaction:

“What’s your name, nigger?”   So, I said to myself, this must be their guy with the communications skills.I took the cigarette out of my mouth and studied its glowing tip for a moment. His beery breath struck my face. I looked at him and said very quietly: “Listen, pig. Another word out of you, and I’ll see to it that you won’t be able to stand up, sit down, or fuck – ever again.”

And then a few seconds later, he switches to the cynical humor:

(Mrs. Steiner, a bureaucratic receptionist who has just refused to serve or speak to Kayankaya because he appears to be a minority gives an explanation and then Kayankaya says…) “If you are not telling me the truth…” “I beg your pardon…” Despite her obvious fear that our argument might turn into a free for all, Mrs. Steiner looked indignant. “ I am a civil servant!”


This particular story opens when Kayankaya  takes on a new client, Herr Weidenbusch, who has discovered that love is never roses and springtime when your girlfriend is a Thai immigrant that has been kidnapped by a gang of pimps. This isn’t the first time either, and the simpering Weidenbusch, with his pink eyeglasses and colorful wrist watches, who rebels against his mother at the age of 40 or so, wants to get her back. He has “paid her debt” to the brothel that sponsored her, and paid for a fake passport so that Weidenbusch can marry her, and now they apparently want more. Kayankaya recognizes a name from the place where Sri Dao Rakdee worked.  “The Lady Bump”, a shady bar and house of prostitution in Frankfurt’s “Eros Center’. Slibulsky is a low life, depraved and shady criminal, a degenerate gambler no loyalty and a broken arm. He just blew a fifty thousand mark inheritance at a roulette table and is working off a further debt to the owner of the establishment. He is also a ‘friend’ of Kayankaya. The kind of friend you hope the other guy has. But Slibulsky has his ear to the ground of the Frankfurt underground and soon opens some doors to dark places where Kayankaya seeks Sri Dao.

Along the way Kayankaya encounters deadly crime bosses, indifferent and crooked cops, violent muscle men, a landlord who wants his money, an illegal immigrant ring that sells the hopefuls fake visas and then disposes of them – the hopefuls, not the visas, a miasma of bureaucratic and social injustice and racial prejudice that mirrors Americas own. The air of contemporary Europe’s racial politics and inane nationalism are the maze that Kayankaya navigates in his quest but he is well equipped with a sharp mind, a sharper tongue and meets these challenges with a cynical, smart-assed attitude and an anti-authority front. There are enough seeming dead ends, as almost any detective novel requires, but instead of having them …dead end, Arjouni has them turn into very interesting ‘small mysteries’ or stories inside the story.Jakob Arjouni Arjouni is a consummate professional. His prose are efficient with a minimalists approach that Hemingway would love, but not so minimalist that he doesn’t manage to fully develop the characters without using stock, stereotypes, and he makes them way too real. He also paints scenes both colorful and dark about the underbelly of a city and maintains a pace that lingers just enough in all the right places.

The only criticism I have for this otherwise master work is that it took to damn long to get it translated and released in English. Well, Melville International Crime has fixed that, and thank you very much.



The Dirty Lowdown

Copyright © 2011 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved




Filed under International Noir

Top Suspense:13 Classic Stories by 12 Masters of the Genre-Review

Book Review.

Top Suspense

The great attraction of short fiction for me is the sheer mastery it takes to develop a character, often many characters, lay out a plot that has to grab the reader right away and then tell a tale that will leave the reader not only entertained but thinking about it long after it is finished.  This is harder than it sounds and can be much harder than writing a full length novel.

Lucky for us readers, there are some authors out there that have mastered the form and in this book from CreateSpace and the Top Suspense Group 12 of those award winning masters have put together a collection of 13 Classic Stories that fulfill those requirements.

Unreasonable Doubt by the prolific Max Allan Collins is batting lead off. This is a tale of greed and murder taken from a real life story in the 50’s with Mr. Collins iconic hardboiled detective, Nathan Heller, from True Detective (November, 1983) and The Million Dollar Wound (1986). Nate is on vacation, but he is on the case. Max Allan Collins has written novels, screenplays, comic books, comic strips, trading cards, short stories, movie novelizations and historical fiction. He wrote the graphic novel Road to Perdition which was developed into a movie starring Tom Hanks.Road To Perdition

  Next up is Deaths Brother by Bill Crider, perhaps most famous for his  Sheriff Dan Rhodes series. Bill Crider has a PhD. and wrote his dissertation on the hardboiled detective novel. Deaths Brother  is the tale of a college poetry professor who has fallen in lust with one of his beautiful students and perhaps picturing himself as Dr. Jonathan Hemlock the Art History Professor and hit man  of The Eiger Sanction fame, decides to help her kill off her rich but terminally ill father..except her father isn’t the man he is sent to kill.

Next up is Poisoned by Stephen Gallagher who has written several novels and television scripts, including for the BBC television series Doctor Who. Poisoned is an eerie story about a “boy” bullied by the neighborhood kids except this story and this boy have a twist.

Poisoned is followed by perhaps my favorite, Remaindered by Lee Goldberg probably best known for his work on several different TV crime series, including Diagnosis: Murder, A Nero Wolfe Mystery, Hunter, Spenser: For Hire, and Monk.  Lee also  wrote and directed the short film Remaindered, based on this short story originally  written for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.

The story involves an author who was touted as“The Voice of a New Generation” after his first novel, but finds himself signing books in a K-Mart a few years later amongst the Kotex sales and the potato chip sales, and taking advice like, “write a book about cats if you want success.” He sees redemption when a young, beautiful fan shows up and asks him back to her place to “see her library.” After an afternoon of fan appreciation, she want him to sign her autograph book which is filled with the signatures of all the other authors she has “appreciated”. Kevin Dangler learns the price for artistic redemption, ardent fan appreciation, and just how hard it is to write, or live, the perfect crime.

Next up is Joel Goldman’s Fire In The Sky a tale of a couple of good old young boys who dream of breaking out of the hum drum life in the American Heartland and also of the seemingly unobtainable girl in the fountain at a local water park. They might just get their chance during Joel Goldmana fire which consumes not only the park, but a number of lives.  Joel Goldman is a fourth generation Kansas Citian, and spent twenty-eight years as a trial lawyer and plan to spend at least as many as a writer.  Check out his great novel, No Way Out.

The Baby Store is a futuristic story from Ed Gorman, the  award winning American author best known for his crime and mystery fiction. He wrote The Poker Club which is now a film of the same name directed by Tim McCann. I first became aware of Ed through his contributions to The Book of Noir . A collection that explores the sense of existential nihilism, where betrayal is how romance best expresses itself and fear is only another name for foreplay.

The Book of NoirThe Baby Store invokes a time when the upper classes design their children. When Kevin McKay and his wife lose their designer child, Kevin begins to plot on how to replace him.

Next on our plate is a great crime story by Libby Fischer Hellmann, The Jade Elephant, a tale of a burglar who after escaping cancer, suddenly grow a conscience. After getting the good news in the hospital, he over hears a woman being given a death sentence because she can’t afford a kidney transplant. The woman is a past victim of Gus and his partner in crime. Because they cleaned her out when they robbed her apartment and left her tied up, she is now destitute and destined to die. Unless Gus finds a way to right wrongs and return the Jade Elephant they stole from her.This would allow her to sell it for money to pay the doctors. There is only one problem…or two….or three. Charlieman, the fence who has the artifact and Pete, his greedy partner. Blackleathersm Hellmann

Hellmann’s first crime fiction novel, An Eye For Murder, was published in hardcover in 2002 by Poisoned Pen Press and in paperback by Berkley Books. It was nominated for an Anthony for Best First, and won the Best First Readers Choice Award at Chicago’s ‘Love is Murder’ conference. Last years, Set the Night on Fire,  

was one of my favorite novels of the year.

  The Big O by the great “Tart Noir” writer, Vicki Hendricks is a white trash tale of a swamp, a couple of losers and a hurricane and how one not so innocent woman uses sex and her child to escape. if she can pull this off, she just give her son, Chance, a chance in life. It’s a memorable story of the extremes the “weaker sex” can employ. Ms. Hendricks is best known for her noir novels, MIAMI PURITY, IGUANA LOVE, VOLUNTARY MADNESS, and SKY BLUES.Iguana love Her novels invoke James M. Cain, the author of the noir classic, The Postman Always Rings Twice, but contain graphic sex that would never have gotten by the censors back in Cain’s day. Her work will give you many hot sweaty days and nights of reading fun, even in the dead of winter in Portland, Oregon surrounded by cold, drizzly, and damp that can’t even cut through her heat.

The Chirachi Covenant by Naomi Hirahara,  the 2007 winner of The Edgar Award for Snakeskin Shamisen is a tale taking place right after WWII when the Japanese-Americans were allowed to return to their homes and lives after the internment camps. Snake Skin

It’s an insightful tale of the clash of cultures, lust and honor. You’ll want to read more of Ms. Hirahara’s work after this story.

El Valiente En El Infierno is a border tale of a boy trying to reach his father in North America after the death of his mother in Mexico. he must pay a Coyote and make  a quick night trip over the fence, dodging vigilantes with rifles and cruel streaks. Along the way he meets and confronts xenophobes, his own manhood and pride as well as the unscrupulous coyotes who ply their trade by exploiting their own people. Paul Levine, as usual, writes a poignant story that you will think about many times over the next few days.

This was another of my very favorites from this marvelous collection. Paul is probably best known for his  Jake Lassiter Series.  Jake is Paul levine“Travis McGee with a law degree.” of crime fiction. Paul also writes the humorous "Solomon and Lord” series and moonlights on Facebook as a food critic….okay, I made that part up, but the man seriously knows the best restaurants anywhere in the world.

A Handful of Dust is the next story in this great collection. It is by Harry Shannon, the novelist, songwriter and entertainer who coincidentally lived in my home town of Pomona, California and attended Ganesha High School about the same time as my father. Besides being a great fiction writer, Harry co-wrote a number of songs recorded by artists such as Eddy Arnold (Cowboy), Reba McIntire (Small Two Bedroom Starter), Engelbert Humperdinck (Love You Back To Sleep), and Glen Campbell (Why Don’t We Just Sleep On It Tonight). Harry Shannon

The immensely talented Mr. Shannon also writes the Mick Callaghan novels. In A Handful of Dust Harry tells the story of a professional hit man, a monster named Pike and a late night meeting with a client at a road side bar. Pike, more at home in Vegas in his Armani suits and city slicker shoes, may just have run into a killer more deranged than himself. He’ll find out as he runs through the desert and finds fear in a handful of dust.

The 12th author to entertain us here is Dave Zeltserman the winner of both the Shamus and Derringer awards for his novelette "Julius Katz" in 2010. His ‘man out of prison’ crime noir series features the novels Small Crimes, Pariah and Killer. Small crimes Small Crimes was one of my favorites of 2008, featuring  corrupt cop Joe Denton, just out of prison after serving seven years for a drug fueled assault that left a D.A. permanently scarred. The Canary, The story presented here, is the story of a big time bank robber and armored car robber Karl Haskell and his attempt to reclaim the key to the storage shed where the $300,000 is stashed. The key is hidden inside a painting that, until recently, was in the possession of his partner, Pete Sifer. Sifer has been busted for drugs, and all his property, including the painting where the key is hidden is to be sold at auction. When Haskell can’t buy the painting legitimately at auction, he resorts to nefarious means. A neat, tidy little tale proving that crime might pay, but the tax on greed can be your undoing.

The final tale here is The Chase, this is a great little story written by all 12 of the authors. The deal was that each would write 250 words, then pass the story to the next author on the list. This sounds complicated, but these folks demonstrate why they are the award winners. The story is seamless! I seriously resorted to counting words trying to determine where one author stopped and the other took up the story. That didn’t help. Even once you figure out where the “breaks” must have been you can’t guess who wrote what. You’ll just have to buy this great collection, and read through the end to receive the link that will reveal who wrote what. Besides the “whodunit” of figuring out the last story, it is a great story and well worth the price of this great little book. get it here, today. Top Suspense

The Dirty Lowdown

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Filed under Crime Reports-Book Reviews, Short Stories