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  • Reviews for Hotel Bosphorus by Esmahan Aykol
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Reviews for Hotel Bosphorus by Esmahan Aykol
'Aykol makes her English-language debut with her first mystery featuring Kati Hirschel, an offbeat amateur sleuth with a distinctive narrative voice. Kati, a German who's lived for many years in Istanbul, runs the city's only bookstore specializing in mysteries. She gets her chance to play detective in real life after the arrival of an old friend, movie actress Petra Vogel, who's starring in a joint Turkish-German production. Petra becomes the main suspect in the murder of the film's director, Kurt Muller, after someone drops a plugged-in hair dryer into his bath and electrocutes him. Rumors that Muller was on the verge of replacing Petra provide the police with an obvious motive. Kati takes up the case personally, involving herself with a hunky inspector along the way to the logical and surprising conclusion. Fans of such female detectives as Amanda Cross's Kate Fansler and Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher will find a lot to like.' - Publishers Weekly
'Turkish author Esmahan Aykol's debut novel, Hotel Bosphorus, is a little like an ultra exotic version of a Miss Marple murder mystery. It's probably a little more cozy mystery than gritty crime novel, but what it lacks in dark noirish deeds, it more than makes up for in its exoticism of setting. Aykol excels in portraying Istanbul as seen through the eyes of a foreigner who has come to love the city but recognizes how the various cultures often bump up against each other.
Kati Hirschel is one of the more intriguing amateur sleuths I've come across recently. Born in Istanbul of German parents she spent the first seven years of her life there before moving back to Germany, and has since returned and lived there for another thirteen. Her Turkish friends are convinced she has assimilated to the point of becoming a full fledged Istanbullu, and she'll be the first to defend her adopted city's customs and eccentricities while accepting (or at least being aware of) its blemishes. Kati is self-assured, fearless, and quite certain in her opinions, which she will happily share with you. Sometimes directly to the reader as she narrates her story in first-person. Forty-ish and attractive she owns the sole bookshop in Istanbul, which specializes in crime novels. She, of course, jumps at the chance to do a little extracurricular sleuthing the first chance she gets.
It seems Kati isn't so much interested in discovering a murderer and bringing him to justice as she is in seeking out the truth, and more importantly helping out a friend from college.
"I'd been reading crime fiction since my childhood, and selling it for the last three years. I was no longer just an ordinary reader. The time had come for me to offer my theoretical knowledge for the benefit of society."
As part of a German film company Petra Vogel has come to Istanbul to make a movie. Before filming is set to begin the director is found dead in his bath, the apparent victim of electrocution. All attention falls on Petra as she is the director's nearest neighbor in the luxurious Hotel Bosphorus and she was in the area at the time of his death. The two had suites next to each other. More damning is the fact that the two are said to be romantically involved. Kati has not seen Petra in years since their paths diverged after university, and before they even have time to catch up she feels called upon to defend her friend. Petra appears to have changed since their school days, aged and seemingly burdened by secrets.
Bits of Kati's past trickle out over the course of the story. Her father is dead and her mother lives on her own in Berlin. The two women aren't particularly close, but neither is a fan of the police. It's probably for this reason that Kati rebuffs the amorous attentions of the investigating officer on the case, Batuhan Önal, though she's happy to obtain whatever information from him she can get. She's particularly good at this as a matter of fact. She manages to question the head of the local mob with a certain panache before he's hauled off to jail on another crime entirely. All her questions and nosing about reveal little that sheds light on who might be the culprit. The Turkish police aren't willing to work with their German counterparts and seem to have a decided lack of evidence, so it's likely the case will be closed unsolved.
What's so interesting about Hotel Bosphorus is Aykol is a Turkish writer writing from a German character's perspective. Aykol splits her time between Istanbul and Berlin, and in the novel she explores the way the two cultures clash and stereotype each other. Although the mystery relies a tad too much on coincidence to move the plot along and the ending felt a little too rushed, she more than makes up for these shortcomings through her depiction of the two societies and her very adroit evocation of place and Turkish society in general. I could see the sun setting over the Golden Horn and feel the heat and claustrophobia of the traffic as well understand how badly tourists and visitors behave. And she does it all with a touch of humor.
This was a quick and entertaining read. If you enjoy crime stories with an international flair, this one is definitely off the beaten track. I've become quite a fan of Bitter Lemon Press and am happy to see them bringing more international crime novels to English speaking readers. Hotel Bosphorus is Esmahan Aykol's first Kati Hirschel mystery to be translated into English by Ruth Whitehouse. There are two more, which I hope will get translated as well. I should note that I jumped the gun on this one a little; it is due out in the US in July 2011. I'd never read a Turkish mystery/crime novel before and couldn't resist the temptation to start reading it right away. I hope to get the chance to read more of her work.'
- Work in Progress
'Esmahan Aykol, a Turkish journalist-turned-author, has chosen a plucky crime bookshop owner from Istanbul as her heroine in this, the first of three Kati Hirschel murder mysteries. But alas, Kati is as hard to identify with as she is to take seriously. The plot centres around her estranged school friend Petra Vogel, now a successful film actress. When the German director of her latest film is found dead in his hotel bathroom, the sycophantic Miss Hirschel launches herself into the police investigation with all the skill of a clueless cub picking apart a messy carcass. Her sledgehammer approach is as excruciating to read as the love scenes in which she propositions the police inspector before reminding herself how much she loathes the authorities. A novel worth finishing if only to find out whodunit, though the fact the lethal weapon appears to be a hairdryer makes this a Bridget Jones of a murder mystery - just not a terribly endearing one.' - Daily Mail
'Kati Hirschel is the proud owner of Istanbul's only crime bookshop. When the German director of a film starring an old school friend is found murdered in his hotel room, Kati cannot resist the temptation to start her own maverick investigation. After all, her friend is the police's principal suspect and reading all those detective novels must have taught Kati something! A crime story as well as a wonderful book about Istanbul and Turkish society, Hotel Bosphorus is told with humour, social insight and sincerity.' - Belletrista
'A wonderful novel about Istanbul. The Turkish way of life, prejudices, men, politics, corruption-Esmahan Aykol writes about all these with a light and humorous touch.' - Petros Markaris, author of 'Che Committed Suicide' and 'Zone Defence'.

'Katie Hirschel runs the only crime bookshop in Istanbul. The city has dominated her life since childhood when her parents fled there from the threat of fascism in Germany. Now, having lived there for thirteen years as an adult she is still considered a foreigner but has a unique insight into this ancient metropolis. When an old childhood friend called Petra Vogel calls her to tell her that she is acting in a film being shot in Istanbul, Katie arranges to meet her to catch up on old times. However, their reminiscing is soon cut short when the director of the film is found dead in his bathtub at the Hotel Bosphorus. He appears to have been electrocuted by someone dropping a hairdryer into the water. Katie finds herself trying to solve the crime in order to protect her friend Petra and uncovers a sordid and grim history.

Hotel Bosphorus is something of a curiosity. Its descriptions of the city of Istanbul are evocative and witty, there is a sense of authenticity in its depictions of Turkish culture and its central mystery initially stirs the imagination. But while the observations and experiences of the heroine Katie Hirschel are diverting and often memorable they seem at times to be at the expense of the progression of the plot. Much of the fun to be had here arises from the daily life of the café's, kebab restaurants, street vendors and the street life of the city. Told in a light, chatty style that is likeable and best compared to the contents of a personal diary we get a varied slice of personal life that includes, pathos, bathos and sexual revelation. As a portrait of a fascinating city Hotel Bosphorus paints an intriguing and humorous picture. Unfortunately the MacGuffin at the heart of this mystery does not quite match up to that. Still, the further exploits of this feisty heroine suggest a promising future for what is intended to be an ongoing series. I look forward to more tales of strong Turkish coffee and cigarettes.'

- Crime Time
'Hotel Bosphorus introduces Kati Hirschel, the 30-something German owner of the only crime bookshop in Istanbul, Turkey. Kati spent the first seven and last 13 years of her life in Istanbul, is almost accepted as a native, and can't imagine living anywhere else. She has her groceries delivered to her apartment via a basket lowered from the window, and isn't ready to face the day before three or four cups of Turkish coffee leisurely consumed on the balcony. When her old school friend Petra, a star of the German cinema, phones to say she will be filming in Istanbul, Kati is delighted to act as tour guide. Then the director of the film is murdered in his hotel room and Petra is the prime suspect. Kati can't restrain herself from starting her own investigation based on the tricks and tips she has picked up by reading crime fiction. Kati is a delightful narrator: enthusiastic, independent, witty, and always on the lookout for a handsome man. Brimming with a humorous perspective on Turkish culture, politics, corruption, and prejudices against foreigners, this first in a series, published in 2001 in Turkey, is the debut novel by a young Turkish journalist who divides her time between Istanbul and Berlin.' - StopYourKilling Me (SYKM)
'Esmahan Aykol plots cleverly, works in some sly and knowing comments on the tropes and cliches of the rime genre, and she does a nice line in wittily undermining national stereotypes. There is more than enough promise in Hotel Bosphorus to make it worth seeking out the rest of the series when they appear in translation.' - New Internationalist

As an alternative to the major publishing houses, why not give the minnows a chance, writes Michael Hoggitt.When looking for some leisurely, undemanding reading, it's so easy to be seduced into buying novels that have been published by one or other of the major houses and written by any number of the usual band of suspects who seem to dominate the list of best-sellers time and time again. Well, my friends, there may be an alternative!I recently received a book selection published by Bitter Lemon Press, a small London-based independent launched in 2003. The company specializes in high quality thrillers and contemporary crime fiction from Continental Europe and beyond, by authors whose works have previously been unavailable in English. I've randomly chosen three to review and my gut feeling is that Bitter Lemon, along with other such bijou publishing houses, could soon be challenging the current 'big guns'. This extra choice could be good news for a venerable parish priest of my acquaintance who, whilst discussing the merits of various literary genres, confessed to me his penchant for good, well-written crime novels!
Hotel Bosphorus by Turkish born Esmahan Aykol introduces us to Kati Herschel, a forty-something German national who owns a bookshop in Istanbul specializing in crime novels. Petra, an old university friend and now a famous film star in Germany, arrives to make a film in the Turkish city and insists they spend some time together to catch up. No sooner has she checked into her hotel when the film's director is found murdered. The main suspect is Petra , who is then herself rather violently despatched!. With no apparent motive and no other suspects, the Turkish police are struggling to solve the murders, so Kati takes it upon herself to engage in a spot of amateur sleuthing. After all, she's been involved in crime, albeit literary, for years, so she must have picked up some tips, right? She begins by delving into the murky world of a local film company, with links to the Turkish underworld, which seems to offer the only way forward. Following many twists and turns involving the local police and gangsters, the book reaches quite a surprise conclusion. Ms Aykol writes in a chatty, funny, and sometimes racy, narrative style, taking us into the overcrowded heady maze of multicultural Istanbul, with its myriad of locales and eateries, and introducing us to many of the characters who inhabit her hectic business and social life. Hotel Bosphorus is the first in the Kati Herschel series and the first to be translated into English by Ruth Whitehouse.'

- Independent Catholic News (ICN)
'Aykol's debut novel was originally published in her native Turkey back in 2001, but has only recently been translated into English by Ruth Whitehouse. Although not the first Turkish writer to take up her pen and write in the crime fiction genre (Mehmet Murat Somer and Celil Oker are two other writers who already well-established in this field) she is the first female crime writer to be published in the UK. This is the first in a planned series of books featuring crime fiction bookseller turned amateur sleuth, Kati Hirschel. Hotel Bosphorus is written in the first person with Kati is talking to her reader rather like she is having a one-sided conversation. The main character is a Turkish-born German who returned to Istanbul on holiday 13 years previously, and decided to stay and open the city's only crime fiction bookshop. Much of the early story follows Kati in her daily life, building up a picture of Istanbul and the workings of society there to demonstrate how different it is from the rest of Europe, particularly Germany. When a German film crew arrive, Kati is delighted to discover that her old friend, Petra - now a famous actress - is amongst them. However, a storm cloud is looming over this happy reunion, and when director Kurt Müller is murdered, suspicion immediately falls on Petra. Being a lover of mysteries, Kati cannot resist the temptation to look into the matter herself. With no real clues to go on, and refusing assistance from the German authorities, the Turkish police are all but ready to give up on the case. But Kati is not as easily deterred and finds herself gradually sorting through the various clues and red herrings before finally coming to a well-structured reveal. In some ways, the book does feel a little compartmentalized. Certain characters in this story crop up and disappear or are mentioned but we never actually meet them, but they have a reason for being there, and the eagle-eyed reader quickly picks up that their inclusion is purely to impart certain information that is relevant to the case. For instance there's the elusive Fofo, who we are told so much about at the beginning of the book, or Inspector Batuhan Ӧnal, who is leading the investigation and develops a somewhat brief friendship with Kati. Meanwhile, other characters such as Pelin, Lale, Yilmaz and Selim, are clearly there for the long-haul yet have no real bearing on the case. This is a satisfying read, and Kati is a character you will quickly develop a liking for. The pace is quite sedate and you'll find yourself being gently drawn along with the investigation. The ending did feel a little abrupt, but if you're open to trying something a little different in an unusual setting, then this is certainly worth a read. We welcome this writers new arrival in English, and await Kati Hirschel's next investigation.' - Crimefictionlover
'Another admiral trait of these small publishers is to look for ports of call beyond the usual. Bitter Lemon Press offers a virtual travelogue of the world with bracing mysteries from Germany, Argentina and, in its latest, Turkey. Esmahan Aykol's Hotel Bosphorus features Kati Hirschel, 43, the German owner of a mystery bookstore in Istanbul, and a delightfully wry observer of German and Turkish mores. As this first in the series makes clear, she could be the love child of Miss Marple and NPR's Andrei Codrescu. The author also divides her time between Germany and Turkey and uses her heroine's bemusement with both countries-as well as her curiosity about men and celebrity-to spin a lively tale when Hirschel's friend is suspected of murdering her lover and the quasi-detective is drawn simultaneously into the world of Turkish police and Turkish underground. It doesn't matter much who done it. What matters is that Aykol uses the genre to tell us a little more about the world than we're used to hearing from more commercial writers.' - Newsday
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