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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

One Man, One Murder, by Jakob Arjouni ($14.95)(c1991, re-released 2011)

This is a story with a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, dissolute, wise-ass, world-weary private eye, in the best American tradition à la Raymond Chandler. However, the author, Jakob Arjouni, is German. Kemal Kayankaya, the aforementioned dissolute p.i., is a German citizen of Turkish descent. Otherwise, not so different. There are the requisite dissipated denizens of the underworld: women of ill-repute, pugnacious mobsters, and cement block-shaped henchmen. Tossed in are corruption, betrayal, snappy dialogue, and a missing dame. See, not so different.

How colorful is this? Kemal Kayankaya must find Sri Dao Rakdee for his client, Manuel Weidenbusch. It's a veritable United Nations. Even the asides are multicultural. At one point, some of the characters are watching a tennis match with American John McEnroe playing a "taciturn Swede."

Here's a taste of the tough guy talk:

The joint was packed. Clouds of smoke hung under the ceiling, and the waiters' faces glistened with sweat. I made my way to the bar. Ignoring the instant angry chatter of the woman working the beer tap I opened the door marked Office and saw Schlumpi, the man I didn't know, and Slibulsky.

A plain man wants the woman of his dreams returned to him. She's apparently a Thai hooker, however, and disappears in the process of trying to extend her visa. While investigating at the brothel and engaging in badinage with some odd fellows, Kayankaya runs into an old friend who is working for a member of the mob. Does the mob have anything to do with the woman's disappearance? Or was she merely toying with Kayankaya's client and done a runner with his money? The various stories twist about but manage to be resolved all of a piece at the end.

Arjouni's writing is spritely, sarcastic, and funny. Kayankaya has Attitude to spare and a probable death-wish, a good combination.

I must give the translator, Anselm Hollo, a standing "o" for a wonderful, flowing narrative. (It wasn't originally written in English? Really?)

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