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Happy Birthday, Turk (Kayankaya #1)

3.45  ·  Rating Details ·  490 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
A Turkish worker, Ahmed Hamul, is stabbed to death in Frankfurt's red-light district—certainly no reason for the local police to work overtime. Kemal Kayankaya, however has a different attitude. He is 26, born in Turkey, raised in Germany and now working as a Private Investigator. He has a German passport but has first hand experience of resentment against foreigners and n ...more
Published September 1st 2005 by Oldcastle Books (first published 1985)
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Thomas The story begins on the birthday of the private detective who happens to be of Turkish descent (although he doesn't speak Turkish at all, since he…moreThe story begins on the birthday of the private detective who happens to be of Turkish descent (although he doesn't speak Turkish at all, since he grew up adopted. So even though he is legally German, a significant part of the story focusses on him being treated as an social outsider just because of his looks). He shows his ID to a person he interrogates - and after taking a glance this very person replies in a quite snottish way: "Happy Birthday, Türke".(less)
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Community Reviews

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Rachel Hall
Jan 07, 2017 Rachel Hall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Waking up on his twenty-sixth birthday in August 1983, private investigator Kemal Kayankaya faces his first battle of the day with the infernal fly that has disturbed his sleep and consoles himself by cracking open one of the many beers that he consumes over the course of the next three days. Born to now deceased Turkish parents from Ankara, his adoption and upbringing by the Holzheims, a family of German nationals, was his passport to German citizenship, although he has never been in doubt as t ...more
Gisela Hafezparast
Really good, fast read. This series of 5 books was written in the 80s, chronicling some of the social and cultural topics and very much reminds me of what was happening in Germany during my teenage years. The prejudices and dependencies of both the German as well as Turkish (and any other "Gastarbeiter" nationals) people towards each other is clearly shown. Whilst the detective is very much of the old school hard-living and hard-drinking lonely wolf type, the culture perspective of the books rem ...more
Stavroula P.
Sep 20, 2016 Stavroula P. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Αν και γενικά δεν μου αρέσουν τέτοιου είδους βιβλία, το συγκεκριμένο ήταν αρκετά καλό. Κατά λάθος έπεσε στα χέρια μου και εφόσον ήταν μικρό αποφάσισα να κάνω μία προσπάθεια να το διαβάσω. Ομολογώ ότι στην αρχή δεν με κέρδισε άλλα όσο κυλούσαν οι σελίδες τόσο το ενδιαφέρον αυξάνονταν. Δεν το άφησα μέχρι να αποκαλυφθεί ο δολοφόνος και η αιτία.
Άξιζε η ανάγνωσή του εν τέλει.
A quick and interesting noir read, written in the early 80s and with a special focus on the stigma attached to Turkish immigrant population in West Germany. This was Jakob Arjouni writing his debut novel at the age of 20 and it feels fresh and brash, playing fast and loose with genre conventions and carving a unique little space in the world of international noir with a social conscience. I shall be checking out more of this series, especially if they're all under 200 pages.
Dieses Buch fand ich so großartig, dass ich gar nicht weiß, wohin mit all meiner Freude! Bücher, die einen so richtig begeistern, sind immer etwas ganz besonderes und es fällt mir schwer, "Happy birthday, Türke!" mit Worten gerecht zu werden. Denn wenn ein Buch es mir so richtig angetan hat, dann neige ich auch leicht zur Glorifizierung. Daher kann es gut sein, dass ich schlichtweg blind bin für eventuelle Schwächen, die „Happy birthday, Türke“ haben könnte. Denn auch, wenn ich beispielsweise d ...more
Aug 11, 2011 j rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
You know, I didn't think "A German detective novel, THAT'LL be a laugh riot!" but I guess I should have. LOVED this book and am moving onto the other ones in the series.

Arjouni does noir with a smirk. It reminds me a bit of a very German James Ellroy--tons of wordplay, an awareness of social commentary, and quick punchy dialog delivered by a grizzled, world-weary, not-entirely-a-good-guy protagonist. The story itself is short and relatively straightforward, in a way that avoids the crazy-compli
May 17, 2010 Maddy rated it liked it
Although he was born in Turkey, Kemal Kayankaya has lived all but one year of his life in Germany. After his parents both died, he was adopted and raised by a German family and became a German citizen. In spite of that, he is still an outsider. Other people judge him on his outward characteristics, and he is subjected to verbal and physical harassment because of his racial background. And he can't even speak Turkish!

Kayankaya is a private investigator, and he is hired by a fellow Turk to invest
Nov 18, 2013 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookcrossing, 2013
Quite a bit of Hammett and Chandler in the style, and a lot of humor both in the things Kayankaya sees and in everything that happens around him. Brilliant. A hard-boiled Turkish private investigator from Frankfurt, and this starts the series. Classically chandlery, yet modern.
This just has to be my favorite detective/policesque hero set in Germany - simply because I can't think of any others that I might enjoy as much. (If y'all know any, please suggest. I like my heroes with an edge, like Har
Baris Balcioglu
Valla Almanca yorum yazamayacağım. Zaten 100 sayfasını okuyup yıllarca ara vermiştim. Şimdi bir iki günde bitirdim. Polisiye olduğu için de Almanca da olduğundan ne kadar anladım kimbilir. Ama belki daha geyik bir romanla Almanca serüvenini canlı tutabilirim. Şimdi endişem Fransızcayı unutmuş olmak. Bu romandan aklımda kalacak sözcük arsch. Jemand sözcüğünü de yanlış biliyormuşum. Bir sürü başka sözcüğü yine öğrenemedim. Ah ah!
Jul 24, 2014 Voluntarystress rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A delightful detective novella, full of humorous irony. Read on Kindle. I had enjoyed what was sadly this author's final book when it was sent to me by Real Reader, so I'm endeavouring to catch up with the previous four books. A German author who has created a private detective of Turkish extraction brought up as a German, who breaks all the rules, and seems to take nothing too seriously. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Apr 17, 2010 Heidi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Billed as a Turkish-German Sam Spade, Kayankaya is much more fascinating that that. He's a fish out of water with a twist: born in Turkey, raised by German foster parents in Frankfurt, he doesn't speak a word of Turkish, yet he's always taken for a foreigner due to his appearance and Turkish name. A page turner in the classic hard-boiled P.I. genre.
May 10, 2014 Deanne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crimethriller
So so read but this maybe due to the translation and not the original, seems almost rushed.
Thomas Hübner
Nov 05, 2014 Thomas Hübner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Kemal Kayankaya – the name is without doubt Turkish. But Kemal doesn’t speak Turkish because he was adopted by a German couple when he was still a toddler. His parents, immigrants from Anatolia in Frankfurt/Main, died young. And so Kemal grew up like any other German child, except for his name.

A very clever choice by the author, I can say. Because it makes the hero of Happy Birthday, Turk! a born outsider - for many Germans he is the Turk who they think cannot
May 17, 2017 Dave rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a bad little mystery. The story itself isn't particularly innovative but the fact that the PI is a Turk allows Arjouni to poke at social issues in 1980s Germany in an interesting way.
Review of Melville House's new crime imprint and the Kayankaya series in particular (including Happy Birthday, Turk!, One Man, One Murder, More Beer, and Kismet) published in The L Magazine. See review (here: or full text below.


“Crime=Culture.” So says Dumbo publisher Melville House about their new imprint, Melville International Crime. MIC represents the publisher’s latest venture to expand their existing catalog of fiction in translation, but although Melville House has
David Fulmer
Dec 24, 2013 David Fulmer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title of this short, quick-witted private eye novel by Jakob Arjouni set in Frankfurt in the early 1980s is the sarcastic statement made by a prostitute in Milly’s Sex Bar who’s just asked the narrator, a hard working, hard boiled private detective named Kemal Kayankaya, if he’s a cop. When he shows her his private eye’s license and she notes his date of birth he sees she’s sharper than what he expected. It’s a bit like this novel which features every cliche you’d expect from a novel about a ...more
Feb 27, 2011 Blue rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noir
Happy Birthday Turk! is rife with noir cliches. A private eye who does not eat anything for days; he is so tough that he just drinks coffee and alcohol. He gets beaten up, his eye swollen shut and his jaw bleeding, yet he can go on to investigate crimes, interview people, chase down criminals. The plot is obvious from the very beginning and everything unravels very easily: It seems that people are just waiting to be asked to spill the beans. Perhaps the only redeeming quality is the "ethnic" ide ...more
Brian Stoddart
I was curious to read this as had heard quite a bit about Arjouni as a great talent cut off at a relatively early age. He reads a bit like a European Chandler with some great if sometimes mystifying one-liners and descriptions: "the room looked like an aquarium full of cocoa."

The idea is great - a Turkish by descent private eye in Germany who speaks no Turkish, here gets hired by a Turkish woman to investigate the death of her husband who turns out to have been a drug dealer enmeshed by a gaggle
Sep 18, 2016 Leanna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found Jakob Arjouni’s Happy Birthday, Turk! while googling about the television series Cenk Batu: Undercover Agent. Cenk Batu is a German of Turkish ancestry, and my google search introduced me to a world of Turkish-German television series, movies, and books. Happy Birthday, Turk! was highly recommended on several sites, so I quickly ordered an English translation through my library’s interlibrary loan program.

Turk! was a fast read. Kemal Kayankaya is rough-living private investigator that is
Nov 06, 2013 Kurt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The 1987 debut of Turkish-German private investigator Kemal Kayankaya is pretty darn good. This book seems historically important to me, as I was a traveller in Germany during the mid-80s and witnessed the likes of many Turkish immigrants making their way in Dusseldorf. Kemal experiences plenty of negative interaction with the xenophobes of Frankfurt, but is one tough dude. He manages to solve the mystery of a murdered fellow Turk in three days by keeping the pressure on a group of local heroin ...more
I first heard about this book on the Radio 4 programme 'Foreign Bodies', listed as an example of crime fiction as post war European social commentary. On reading it, I was incredibly impressed at the depth and maturity of a novel written by a white, middle class 20 year old. Although it does not match the intelligence and social conscience of the Martin Beck novels, Arjouni still gives an interesting view of the seedier side of German life. In the end, I felt that the book depended too much on u ...more
Tyler Jones
I was doodling around on Goodreads a week ago and learned that Jakob Arjouni had died a few weeks earlier. Reading a piece by his American publisher ( ), I learned that Arjouni wrote the Kayankaya books while he was in his twenties and the first, Happy Birthday, Turk!, was written when he was only nineteen. I ran out and got a copy. While it is not the most original crime book I've ever read, it is far better that most. To think it was written by a teenag ...more
Sep 14, 2012 Betty rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, germany
The liner note proclaims it is the "greatest German mystery novel since World War II". If so, I'll skip any other German mystery novels. Cliche-ridden, the only interest for me was its portrayal of the dark side of Frankfurt and anti-Turk sentiment. Nothing in the book established the character as, for example, skilled in hand-to-hand combat to take down two enormous bodyguards in a brothel. Evidently he lives on Scotch, beer and coffee. I read it, but I didn't buy it. To be fair, the plotting w ...more
Maui Island
Nov 09, 2013 Maui Island rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Turkish German would be Marlowe private detective is solving the murder of a Turkish drug dealer. It is a good story. But in addition, the portrayal of the treatment of Turks in Germany is very good and powerful. The indignities suffered by immigrants who lived in Germany all their lives, who are German, who are part of the fabric of society is starkly drawn. The writing channels Chandler and Hammett. In German, at least. A snippet I enjoyed: in der Ecke stand eine Musikbox. Mick Jagger hockte ...more
Kemal Kayankaya, Turkish born but raised by German parents, is a private investigator. The widow of a murdered Turkish man seeks his help as it seems that the police doesn't do much to find the murderer. So Kayankaya investigates in Frankfurt's red lights district.

I liked the short (170 p.) novel, it was a quick read but I wouldn't go so far as to describe it as "the best thriller a German author has ever written" (which, apparently, a Austrian journalist did).

The author has written at least 3
A German mystery novel with a Turk as the protagonist. Interesting to say the least. It's been too long since I've read it, and I swear foreign language books are harder to recall because most of my attention was on the language and the act of reading, these being distactros from my attention to plot. Well, here goes… Kayankaya, a Turk raised by German parents, is a private eye who ends up solving a mystery involving Turkish workers as patsies for the German police chief (or something like that) ...more
It's interesting to see the classic American hard-boiled detective transmogrified into a Turkish German - or German Turk. Kayankaya was born in Turkey but grew up in Turkey, and now is barely making a living on the mean streets of Frankfurt as a PI.

Kayankaya is a hard drinking, cynical heir to the tradition of Spade and Marlow, with the additional fillip that his alienation is not just temperamental but societal as well. The picture of the life of Turks in Germany is the most interesting thing a
Marina Sofia
I'd read it a while ago and had been very impressed. This time round, I found it trying just a little too hard to be like Sam Spade. But then, the author was only 19 when he wrote it. There is a wonderful world-weariness and local humour which sounds like that of a much more mature and experienced author, though. A story where heartbreak is dealt with in oblique, cynical asides. And all the better for it.
Nov 15, 2011 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent read. It is exactly what it purports to be - an entertaining and fun detective novel. The locale and main character are somewhat exotic. The action takes place in Frankfurt and the P.I. is the Turk in the title, a German born, ethnic Turk. The action takes place as our hero encounters corrupt cops and ethnic prejudice while searching for the killer of a Turkish immigrant. All great fun!

This is part of a series and I intend to read more from this author.
Mar 30, 2013 Christian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Brilliant German novel noir.

However, I read it in German and I can assume two reasons why it wouldn't be as appealing to English readers:
1. It's highly stylised language and as such predestined to lose quite a bit in translation.
2. Its setup with a Turkish-German detective is playing masterfully on German sensibilities and issues. Again, this cultural framework will probably get lost in translation.
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Jakob Arjouni (alias of Jakob Bothe) published his first novel Happy Birthday, Türke! (1985) at the age of 20.Later he wrote his first play Die Garagen. He became famous after publishing his criminal novel Kayankaya, which was then translated into 10 different languages.

In 1987, he received the Baden-Württembergischen Autorenpreis für das deutschsprachige Jugendtheater for his play Nazim schiebt
More about Jakob Arjouni...

Other Books in the Series

Kayankaya (5 books)
  • More Beer
  • One Man, One Murder
  • Kismet
  • Brother Kemal (Kayankaya, #5)

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