Friday 11 April 2014

The Prophet Murders (by Mehmet Murat Somer)

The Prophet Murders

Location: Turkey
Author: Mehmet Murat Somer
Publisher/Year: Serpent's Tail/2008 (In Turkish: İletişim Yayınları/2003)
Genre: Crime; LGBT
Theme: As transvestites around Istanbul continue to fall in a series of bizarre murders, a trans detective/nightclub owner sets out to get to the root of the problem

The first (well, first translated to English) of Mehmet Murat Somer's popular Hop-Çiki-Yaya mystery series, The Prophet Murders is a delightful and engaging read, mixing good crime writing with a whole lot of fun. Hop-Çiki-Yaya, Wikipedia informs me, was a cheerleading chant in Turkey in the 1960s and 1970s that came to be used for gay folks. In writing a series with prominent trans characters and in a way that was more favourable to trans folks than a lot of other works, Somer decided to bring the term back as part of a celebration of LGBT culture and characters.

The plot essentially revolves around an unnamed transvestite nightclub owner and amateur sleuth, who sets out to investigate the murders of two employees and finds herself getting sucked into a larger plot involving transvestite murders fitting themes related to various prophets. It's a race against time as she sets out to get to the root of the murders and prevent more death, while dealing with issues faced by many transvestites.

The concept of the book is fairly simple, but the fun lies in the execution and the characters. Somer imbues the story with a great deal of humour, lightening the mood in just the right way without ever taking away from the tragedies and prejudices faced by characters. The protagonist is well developed, Somer's answer to less than flattering depictions of transvestites in popular culture in the form of a smart, capable amateur detective who is unapologetically herself while also being all too aware of the potential ridiculousness of some aspects of the LGBT community she immerses herself in. She is an amazing character to read, and her development through this book in terms of identity, abilities and relationships with other characters is remarkable. Other characters don't get as much development, but this is understandable in a crime series revolving around a solitary sleuth, and the interactions with various characters remain interesting and delighful.

This is hardly the greatest murder mystery. But it is a fun read all the way through, and touches upon important issues faced by LGBT persons in the background without trivialising them. I for one look forward to reading other books in the series, and I'd strongly recommend this, at the very least for a fun read with an amazing trans detective protagonist (not something one gets to say very often!).

No comments:

Post a Comment