BAKSHEESH

Written by Esmahan Aykol

Review written by Calum MacLeod

Calum MacLeod is a reporter for the Inverness Courier and had been writing for SHOTS since its early days. In 2009 the Highland and Islands Media Awards' judging panel awarded him “Highly Commended Feature Writer of the Year”.


BAKSHEESH
Bitter Lemon Press
RRP: £8.99
Released: 7th March 2013
Pbk

In Istanbul, decent apartments are hard to come by.
Or at least hard to come by without a generous helping of baksheesh, the monetary lubricant that smoothes so much of Turkish life. Kati Hirschel, the owner of Istanbul’s only mystery bookshop, is happy enough to pay that unofficial price if it means she can have her dream apartment. However, the property comes with one unwanted feature, the body of a man Kati had recently had a very public argument with.
Partly on the grounds that she might become a suspect, a vague possibility that is quickly discounted, but more because reading all those mysteries must have taught her something, Kati begins looking into the killing. As far as the mystery element goes, we are in fairly standard amateur sleuth territory with Kati an engaging central character who is reminiscent, in a good way, of Lauren Henderson’s Sam Jones series from the late 1990s.
Where the book really scores, however, is in Aykol’s introduction to modern day Istanbul, a cosmopolitan city that is a magnet for the rural poor and their less than cosmopolitan traditional ways and where Islamists and secular modernists rub up against each other.
Aykol’s clever touch is in making Kati, though a native of Istanbul by birth, a German by parentage and upbringing (in the process neatly reversing the late Jakob Arjouni's Kemal Kayankaya series), giving her both an insider’s familiarity and an outsider’s eye on her Turkish neighbours (and her fellow Germans, come to think of it).
Fancy making a trip to Turkey, but can’t quite afford the airfare? This could be the next best thing.

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