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.