The Prophet Murders by Mehmet Murat Somer
The plot is simple but the writing is clever, especially after the second chapter where the language shifts, becomes sharper, and reads like another translator is brought on to finish the book. I ran across this series while researching the Beyoğlu project and I don’t regret the extra postage I paid to have it shipped from the UK (but I’m still cursing my failure to look up the US translation before hitting buy).
Found it on Amazon. The Prophet Murders: A Hop-Ciki-Yaya Thriller (Hop-Ciki-Yaya)
This Publisher's Weekly blurb sums up the plot:
Set in modern Istanbul and narrated by a nameless transvestite, this first in Somer's Hop-Çiki-Yaya series is a strange blend of blithe and bloody, more about atmosphere than the mystery itself. A serial killer is murdering transvestites, and the narrator, who kick-boxes for fun and owns part of a nightclub, decides to investigate when police commissioner Selçuk Tanyer and his staff are unable to solve the killings. Cute dialogue and breezy descriptions undercut the seriousness of the crimes, even as the author strives to make a statement about Turkey's treatment of the transvestite community. While the resolution may be pat and the more graphic elements unsettling, the interesting narrator and exotic elements of Turkish culture will appeal to many readers.
"Graphic elements unsettling . . ." why do I have the feeling the reviewer isn't talking about murder scenes? Which leads me to my latest rant about why it's okay to tell a general audience, "my latest story is filled with blood and death and manipulation" but it's not okay to say, "my narrator is gay." I'll save that for another day. Back to the book -
Turkish writers have a way of portraying hüzün, the word’s literal translation doesn’t come close to describing the full meaning. Hüzün means melancholy, but it’s so much more than that – it’s an atmosphere of melancholy that is both sad and beautiful and mesmerizing and ruinous. Somer’s atmosphere is quirky and dark and full of contradictions, like Istanbul. Quick mysteries aren’t first on my reading list but I couldn’t resist this one after reading the description. I was prepared for a fast read that would at best contribute to my inner map of Istanbul and introduce me to a writer I could interview for the project, but I squealed a little when I finished and immediately ordered the second in the series all the while muttering about waiting until Sept. for the third book. My mother in law cracked up when she heard that I would spend more hours studying Turkish so I wouldn’t have to wait for the translations. Whatever it takes.
My favorite lines are simple yet numerous including: "Afet totters precariously on that thin line dividing the ridiculously strange from the strangely beautiful. Her feet are large, even for a transvestite. Even so, she had chose to emphasise them, spilling out of tiny high-heels. As usual, knees slightly bent, she appeared poised to leap forward."