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Aykol, Esmahan: Hotel Bosphorus. - Bitter Lemon Press - £ 6.74.

Istanbul and Rome are the two most seductive cities in Europe.   Both are defined by a clash of cultures and both mix dark corners, superior knowing natives and irresistible romance even if there is a suspicion that the romance involves a price best avoided.   Only those visitors prone to self-deception will leave these cities thinking that they have properly understood what they have seen.  In Rome, the modern co-exists with the classical while in Istanbul the city is defined by a complicated history that shaped both Christianity and Islam while the city itself was simultaneously being shaped by the two religions.  The thriller, ‘Hotel Bosphorous’, is set in Istanbul, and inevitably it reflects these tensions.  It has a heroine who is a native of both Germany and Turkey.   This allows the detective, Katie Herschel, to identify what appeals and irritates in the two contrasting cultures.  It is done wittily by a likeable and determined lead character.  Not surprisingly, an author that is concerned with a clash between traditions and alternative values will not be satisfied with being restricted to the one genre.  ‘Hotel Bosphorus’ is an entertaining and wry combination of serious ‘chick lit’ and ‘whodunit’ mystery.  Fortunately, the social conscience of the heroine ensures that the book is not weakened by a man obsessed heroine.  So ‘serious chick lit’ and ‘whodunit’ is a little unfair but it suffices. 

Because the book is not always concerned by the mystery and murder the author is able to add plenty of detail about modern life in Istanbul.  The sex scenes are rare and quite brief but are very convincing about female desire.  This alone makes the book unusual.  There are other surprises.  The presence of a female private detective permits the author to introduce a more cooperative and intriguing policeman than normal.   The convention in private eye novels is that the detective needs to have an intimate relationship with a policeman who is trying, not always successfully, to be decent.  This happens but this relationship is a lot more intimate than normal and much more interesting.  Some will root for the policeman and some will not. 

Katie Herschel, the private eye who owns a non-too successful thriller bookshop in Istanbul is a convincing creation with a strong and consistent narrative voice.  The author, Esmahon Aykol, has wisely resisted the cliché of name dropping other thrillers which is what usually happens when the main character is a genre enthusiast. This means the book, despite the existence of the bookshop, is realistic rather than ironical.   The focus is on the mystery, Istanbul and men.  The latter may delight headstrong women like Katie but she understands that there is always a strong possibility that men will disappoint.  Despite her enthusiasm for the opposite sex our heroine knows that too many men have histories and desires that make them flawed and culpable.   It is no surprise that the crime is dark and significant and this gives the book real consequence and an admirable consistency.   

Howard Jackson