Recent Crime Fiction

By Taylor, Andrew | The Spectator, November 9, 2013 | Go to article overview

Recent Crime Fiction


Taylor, Andrew, The Spectator


No Exit Press is not a large publisher but it has the knack of choosing exceptionally interesting crime fiction. Brother Kemal (translated from the German by Anthea Bell, £7.99, Spectator Bookshop, £7.59) is the fifth of Jakob Arjouni's novels about Kemal Kayankaya, a German private investigator whose family origins are Turkish. Kayankaya operates in the resolutely unglamorous surroundings of Frankfurt. He's on the verge of settling down to semi-respectability with his partner, a former prostitute who owns a bar, when he's retained by the French wife of a Dutch painter to track down her 16-yearold daughter, who has been lured away by a pimp with an immigrant background.

Folded into this case is another, involving a Moroccan author over in Frankfurt for the book fair.

The format is classic hardboiled private eye, but there's nothing formulaic about the way Arjouni handles it. With his Turkish antecedents, Kayankaya is semi-detached from respectable society: he's in it but not of it. What makes the book stand out, however, is the way sudden violence - and spurts of deduction - erupt out of piles of seemingly irrelevant but oddly fascinating detail.

Arjouni was a very sharp observer of contemporary Frankfurt, and anyone who has been to the book fair will shiver with recognition at his descriptions. ('The book fair wasn't hell, it just smelled a bit like it.') Arjouni died a few months ago, which may mean there are no more books to come. That would be a great sadness, but he has at least left us with a superb swansong.

Cross and Burn (Little Brown, £16.99, Spectator Bookshop, £13.99), the new Val McDermid novel, is the eighth title in her Wire in the Blood series featuring Tony Hill, the psychologically scarred forensic profiler, and DCI Carol Jordan. The difference here is that, following the particularly harrowing events in the previous book in the series, neither Hill nor Jordan has a formal connection with the police.

The Yorkshire city of Bradfield has another serial killer. This one is preying on women who look like Carol Jordan. The investigation is hampered by a blinkered Kindertransports.

45senior officer. Meanwhile, Jordan has cut herself off from society in a remote barn while Hill is cultivating his complexes on a narrowboat.

What makes this series stand out is not so much the novels' plots, good though they are, as their powerful characterisation, together with the authority and conviction underpinning the settings. …

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