The Kiss Murder (Hop-Çiki-Yaya #1) – Mehmet Murat Somer

The Kiss Murder is the first book of Mehmet Murat Somer’s Hop-Çiki-Yaya Series. I discovered this funny mystery series thanks to my book club while searching for Turkish authors translated into English, and I was amazed to have never heard of The Kiss Murder until now. You will fall into the world of colourful transvestites, drag queens and delightful side characters; You will illuminate the murders while laughing at the humorous characters.

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The protagonist of The Kiss Murder is a delightful transvestite whose name we do not know, who catches everyone’s eye at the club at night and works as a software developer during the day. Mehmet Murat Somer stated: “Not only in Turkey, but in many countries, transgender people are presented in a way that I don’t like at all. They are either slapstick, half-brained characters to be laughed at or people with no moral values. My aim with the books was to do what Pedro Almodóvar does – turn the negatives into positives.”.

The trans individuals we encounter in The Kiss Murder are educated, intelligent, have refined tastes, and understand art and music. Also, because they are witty and hilarious, an exquisite array of characters emerges.

The Kiss Murder - Mehmet Murat Somer

The Kiss Murder begins with the brutal murder of a transvestite named Buse (means kiss in English). Meanwhile, we are getting to know our main character, whose name we do not know, and we take a look at the nightclubs in Istanbul. When she realizes that Buse has a relationship with one of the most powerful names in the country and that she was killed because of this, our elegant transvestite, who can take down any strong man with her fighting skills, inevitably finds herself in this murder puzzle.

While drinking fennel tea and listening to Bach, she tries to calculate how she will get out of this business. Well, of course, she does not hesitate to entertain herself with the people she meets because of this adventure.

The name Hop-Çiki-Yaya was used to refer to homosexuals in the early 1960s in Turkey. Mehmet Murat Somer stated: “Hop-Çiki-Yaya was a cheerleading chant from Turkish colleges in the early 1960s, and it came to be used in comedy shows to mean gays. If somebody was queenish, then they’d say ‘Oh, he’s Hop-Çiki-Yaya’. By the 70s, it wasn’t being used anymore – so I brought it back.” Thanks to Mehmet Murat Somer and this series, we learned this as well.

If you want to be a little more familiar with the lives of transgender people, break prejudices and have a lot of fun in the meantime, I suggest you take a look at The Kiss Murder, the first book in the Hop-Çiki-Yaya series. It’s time to meet the world’s first amateur transvestite detective, who shows the Audrey Hepburn inside her whenever she feels like it.

The Kiss Murder - Mehmet Murat Somer

The Kiss Murder

The Kiss Murder: The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency meets Pedro Almodovar in this outrageous new series featuring an ultraglamorous sleuth.

A whip-smart Istanbul crime series begins with The Kiss Murder.

The Kiss Murder: Bestsellers in Mehmet Murat Somer’s home country of Turkey and set to take the world by storm, the arrival of the Hop-Çiki-Yaya mysteries is cause for excitement (and lip gloss!) here in the United States. A male computer technician by day and a transvestite hostess of Istanbul’s most notorious nightclub by night, the unnamed heroine of The Kiss Murder is the most charming and hilarious sleuth to debut in recent memory. When Buse, one of the “girls” at her club, fears someone is after private letters from a former lover, she comes to her boss for help.

The next day Buse is dead and our girl must find the murderers before they find her. Fortunately, she is well-armed with beauty, wit, the wardrobe of Audrey Hepburn, and expert Thai kickboxing skills. With a page-turning plot and an irresistibly charming protagonist, The Kiss Murder is sure to attract mystery lovers and nightlife mavens alike.

Mehmet Murat Somer

Mehmet Murat Somer (born 1959) is a Turkish author of crime fiction best known for his Hop-Çiki-Yaya series set in Istanbul and featuring an unnamed transvestite amateur detective. The Kiss Murder is the first book in the series.

Somer was born in Ankara but moved to Istanbul in 1982, after graduating from a technical university, and worked as an engineer for Sony, an experience he draws on in his writing. “I don’t call upon the muses,” he states, “I write more with my logic – my engineering side.” He went on to become a manager for Citibank and he also calls upon this experience in his writing. “When I’m writing a novel, ” he says, “I think about the speed, make the necessary calculations for which character should be seen when, and balance the harsh scenes with silent scenes.”

Somer has been a management consultant, conducting corporate seminars on management skills and personal development since 1994 and took up writing in 2001 following health problems that forced him into semi-retirement. “I had two open-heart operations: 1995 and 1996,” he says, “I have been on the verge of life.”

Concerning his personal life, Somer has stated that, “When the [Hop-Çiki-Yaya] books were first published in Turkey, some of my friends thought that I was a drag queen or transgender. In fact I’m not – sorry to disappoint.”

The Kiss Murder - Mehmet Murat Somer

Somer was inspired to write detective fiction by the novels of his youth, “We don’t have a tradition of literature at all. At all. The Ottoman culture doesn’t include stories and novels in the tradition of western literature. The first Turkish novel was published only 150 years ago. In Turkey, books are not sold well. We don’t have a huge audience. But in the 1960s, there were many crime novels. We even had some Mike Hammers.”

Somer however has an alternate take on the genre, “Lots of the crime novels I encounter are grim, horrifying, brutal,” he says. “I don’t want to see much blood. I don’t want to see harsh feelings. I like light things like champagne or bubblegum. I wanted to write something with joy, that readers could enjoy. Even with the darkest things that I write, I wanted to give them lightness – so the books have brilliant colours.”

Regarding his influences, Somer states, “Honoré de Balzac is my all time favourite. With his novels he creates a complete panoramic picture of France in his time. A major character from one of his books might have a cameo appearance in another. I like this. Patricia Highsmith, especially her Ripleys and Those Who Walk Away, I’ve read and will read over and over. Naturally Orhan Pamuk! Besides his My Name is Red being one of my favourite books, I believe the Nobel prize Orhan Pamuk won, opened the international door for Turkish writers, including me. Truman Capote, Christopher Isherwood, Ingrid Nöll… Many more!”

He wrote the first three novels of the Hop-Çiki-Yaya series back-to-back but had trouble finding a publisher as, “The Salman Rushdie story was still relatively young and they didn’t want to risk anything.” İletisim Yayınları finally agreed to publish the series starting with the second volume The Prophet Murders and Somer credits the stamp of approval from the prestigious company (previously responsible for publishing Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red) with protecting the books from a hostile reception.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

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