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Happy Birthday, Türke! (Kayankaya #1)

3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  417 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
A Turkish worker, Ahmed Hamul, is stabbed to death in Frankfurt's red-light districtâcertainly 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
Taschenbuch, 170 pages
Published 1987 by Diogenes Verlag (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)

Community Reviews

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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
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 14, 2011 j rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-noir
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
At least this was a quick read because otherwise I was underwhelmed. Set in Frankfurt, Germany and featuring a PI of Turkish heritage who, instead of being a smart wisecracking operator, was pretty boorish and blundered through the rather ludicrous plot.
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
Baris Balcioglu
Jun 25, 2016 Baris Balcioglu rated it it was ok
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!
Nov 22, 2013 Anna rated it really liked it
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
Brian Stoddart
Apr 30, 2014 Brian Stoddart rated it liked it
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
Jul 24, 2014 Voluntarystress rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 10, 2010 Heidi rated it really liked it
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 30, 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.
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
Thomas Hübner
Jan 25, 2015 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
Oct 22, 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
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
Aaron Kent
Jun 03, 2016 Aaron Kent rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
I like this detective and I think the plots of the two books I have read are good, however the violence and dialogue in this one felt a little lazy. It felt a little fake and characters seemed to divulge things in a little too formulaic way. This was not the case in Kismet. Either way, I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.
Jan 12, 2015 Francis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It starts fast, then it speeds up and then suddenly it ends. Then you stretch get out of your reading chair and say to yourself, "Wow, I wasn't expecting that, that was really good. Man, how did it get so late? Must have been reading longer than I thought."

And that's all I got to say about it.
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
May 25, 2016 Franck rated it really liked it
I read this in the late eighties and loved it so much then. A witty hard-boiled crime novel with an excellent ear for the street lingo in Germany at that time. That was fresh. Not sure how well it kept up over time.
Mar 03, 2014 John rated it really liked it
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.
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
Mar 03, 2015 Zoli rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to give Jakob Arjouni's Kayankaya novel series a chance and start with the first volume, and I think it was a good decision. Will keep reading these novels at some point.
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 17, 2012 Isabel rated it liked it
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
Entertaining, pretty good twist at the end.
Interesting article about author:
Apr 30, 2012 Michael rated it liked it
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
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
Jul 25, 2015 Maui Island rated it really liked it
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
Gregor Bruns
Jun 02, 2015 Gregor Bruns rated it liked it
The first part would be 4 stars while the last 30 pages were disappointing.
I'd give 3.5, but since that's no option, 3 it is.
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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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