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Happy Birthday, Türke! (Kayankaya #1)

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  296 ratings  ·  44 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 a
Taschenbuch, 170 pages
Published 1987 by Diogenes Verlag (first published 1985)
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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
Thomas Hübner

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
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
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.
So so read but this maybe due to the translation and not the original, seems almost rushed.
David Fulmer
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
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
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
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
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.
Run-ins with prostitutes, heroin dealers, and crooked cops are just the beginning of hard-drinking, Turkish immigrant Detective Kemal’s problems. Set in Frankfurt, Germany, and written when the author was only 19, The Kayankaya Series is a surprisingly funny crime set with a xenophobic twist.
Gary Van Cott
On the back of this book it says "The greatest German crime novel since World War II." I certainly hope not. It is an unoriginal work in the hard boiled private detective genre. The characters are not very interesting nor is the plot or the setting.
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
This is a fun-to-read detective novel, and I enjoyed it even more as I was traveling in Frankfurt, where the book is set, while reading it. Melville House continues to publish excellent crime fiction in translation.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Kemal Kayankaya a me (mi) piace!
Investigatore privato di origine turche che lavora a Francoforte.
Gran bevitore, cinico quanto basta, con principi e etica propria.
Questo é il primo della serie tradotto in italiano, ritmo veloce, ben orchestrato, divertente a momenti.
Lettura leggera, da sera, quando stanchi, il basso voltaggio neuronale non permette niente di impegnativo.
Murat Aydogdu
This is a fun, and a bit trashy, detective novel. It is very easy to read. It takes place in Frankfurt a couple decades ago and the main guy, the detective, is kind of hilarious(an obnoxious, uneducated, alcoholic Turk raised by German foster-parents, who happens to be quite clever).
There are a few more books in this series, I may pick up another in the future.
Ihan hyvä lyhyt dekkari.
Jay McNair
Exciting and fun. Plot flew along, flavored with Kayankaya's trademark sardonic mood. Maybe too flippant, our hero too capable. Except for the gassing—which was gripping—he was never out of control, and even after that things went so smoothly for him that it grew hard to credit. And yet, fun.
I am not really well-qualified to judge german literature but I found the book entertaining and (since my german is not quite fluent) educational. I particularly liked the central character, the still relevant themes of immigration, as well as the silly jokes.
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Jakob Arjouni 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 ab. In 1992, he receive
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