Kitapçı Dükkanı is the first of the Kati Hirschel (Hirşel) mysteries from Esmahan Aykol. Of mixed Jewish-Christian parentage, Kati has moved from Germany, where her family resides, back to İstanbul, the place of her birth. There she has opened a bookstore near Galata Tower [there are actually a couple good bookstores in that neighborhood], the only one of its kind in İstanbul, specializing in mystery novels. A subject that becomes more than simply a literary interest for Kati when an old friend from Germany, an aging actress, comes to İstanbul to film a movie. Not long after the crew arrives in Turkey, the director is found dead in his hotel room and Kati’s friend becomes a suspect. Hence, Kati’s personal interest in the case.
Which is one area at least where I found the novel lacking – its tendency to meander through Kati’s personal life rather than delve more deeply into the process of solving a mystery. Indeed, the mystery never really seems to take precedence for the heroine until the very end. Almost as a footnote. More attention seems to be paid by the author to Kati’s several love affairs throughout the novel. Quite unbelievably, with a police detective, mafia boss, and lawyer. As if Kati’s life cannot be populated with anything other than the types of characters she reads in the novels she sells.
Aykol’s first novel elicited some rather high praise, yet it has struck me as so very fictional – and superficial – that I couldn’t quite care whether the heroine solved the mystery or not. After all, she didn’t seem particularly interested in solving it herself. In fact, after disappointing me with her silly affairs and her tendency towards anti-authority and anti-German statements, she only managed to solve the case due to an accident, and not because of her own efforts. I might give another book in the series a look, but can only hope it fairs better than this one.