Brother Kemal by Jakob Arjouni (Book Review)


This is the fifth, and sadly last, book in a series written by Jakob Arjouni who died earlier this year.  The ‘Brother Kemal’ referred to in the title, is a Private Investigator, of Turkish descent, living and working in Germany.  Kemal is asked to take on two separate cases; finding a missing 16 year old girl and acting as a bodyguard for a Muslim writer at the Frankfurt book fair.  I didn’t expect to enjoy this book because I find that books translated into English from their original language often feel stilted but this was a pleasant exception.  Kemal has a sarcastic sense of humour that appealed to me and made him feel very real as a character.  The story touches on subjects that are topical and thought provoking; the sex trade and differing religious attitudes towards modern social issues, without labouring the points made.  The characters surrounding Kemal made the story interesting and different.  He lives with Deborah who has Jewish German ancestors, Kemal’s parents were Turkish Muslims yet neither of them follow any religion.  Kemal is working for a French woman and an Arabic novelist simultaneously and all in all the book has a very cosmopolitan feel to it.


Written in the first person, Kemal appear to the reader, as a steady, no nonsense character with a very complex past.  Seeing his world through Kemal’s eyes was refreshing and the depth of social detail made this book intriguing.  Kemal’s first experience of the Frankfurt book fair, as a bodyguard to the author; Rashid, was a vivid description that was very realistic.


The storyline at first seems like two totally unconnected cases in the life of a Private Investigator, both of them having seedier elements and both drawing the reader in.  The interception of details of his private life making a rounded account of a week in the life of a PI.  The ending was unexpected and added an element to the story that made me want to read to the last page.  This may have been my first Jakob Arjouni crime novel but it won’t be my last.


16 thoughts on “Brother Kemal by Jakob Arjouni (Book Review)

  1. Beverley (@bev_metallica)

    The characters sound very complex indeed – a Muslim man living with a Jewish girl sounds like an interesting relationship and that’s before we even get onto the plot itself. I adore crime novels and the topical aspect along with the mix of religion – a Muslim author needing a bodyguard? I’m dying to know what HE wrote – makes it all the more interesting.

  2. Claire Holtey

    My first thought was I hope it doesn’t have sub-titles – think I must need more sleep, but I recorded a detective series last week only to find it has sub titles and I hate that. What I should have thought was ‘is it a good translation’, but then you answered that.

    I like PI books and I went to Germany for the first time recently so I think it would make a good read for me.

  3. Amanda Milton

    Sounds like a very interesting read,I like Crime Fiction books,and never read anything that has been translated from another language,and the story sounds very compelling,so would love to read the book (@mandalouise)

  4. kylie johnson

    I like that all the characters sound different with a very diverse background from each of them – all of which are different from mine (so I’d probably learn something while reading it!). Crime books are my main reads so I liked the fact that this is part of a series, though sadly the last one. @kyliejohnson6

  5. chris hunt

    This book sounds great. I am quite difficult to please so I pick random books that look interesting. I would love to give this a try. I am happy to follow your blog and my twitter name is @aprilhaddock

  6. Nick Hopkins

    This is an excellent review. I would like to read this as I always enjoy books which join together two different stories. @NickHopkins1234

  7. Janine Atkin

    fab review. Id never heard of this book but i look crime stories and this sound different to the ones im used to reading. On my to read list now!

  8. kelandab22

    I love to read a variety of genres when it comes to books and this book is in my favourite – crime!

    My twitter name is @kelandab

    Lots of luck with your blog for the future!


    I love reading and always looking to try new books. I haven’t heard of this author but your review appeals to me

  10. Frances Heaton

    Have never come across this author before, but the setting and plot sound ingriguing, definitely something to get your teeth into. Different to books I’ve read previously, from the review it seems that the reader would become involved in the story and feel empathy for the characters.
    Books written in the first person always have a sense of immediacy, and this book sounds interesting to explor.

  11. Jane Green

    I’m guessing its not my usual genre of book, but sometimes they surprise you, and I’ve always fancies myself as a Miss Marple. I’m Janeg88 everywhere lol

  12. Charlotte Hoskins

    This is a different read compared to my norm. The fact that the main character has a sarcastic sense of humour appeals to me 🙂 @charbarcrazy


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