Arab Jazz: Book summary and reviews of Arab Jazz by Karim Miské

Arab Jazz

by Karim Miské

Arab Jazz by Karim Miské X
Arab Jazz by Karim Miské
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2016
    304 pages
    Genre: Mysteries

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Book Summary

Kosher sushi, kebab stands, a secondhand bookstore, and a bar: the 19th arrondissement in Paris has all the trappings of a cosmopolitan melting pot - a place where multiethnic citizens live, love, and worship alongside one another. But dark passions are brewing beneath the seemingly idyllic vision of peacefully coexisting ethnicities.

Ahmed Taroudant is an archetypal French Arab-non-observant, unable to reconcile his conflicting identities, and troubled by the past. A crime fiction connoisseur, Ahmed is engrossed in his latest book when he finds blood dripping from his upstairs neighbor's apartment. There, Laura Vignole is found brutally murdered, with a joint of pork placed near her body, prompting the obvious conclusion that the killer had religious motives. As the neighborhood erupts into speculation and gossip, Ahmed finds himself first among many suspects.

Detectives Rachel Kupferstein and Jean Hamelot attempt to untangle the complex web of events leading up to Laura's death, but truth is hard to come by, with each inhabitant - an Armenian anarchist, a Turkish kebab-shop owner, and a Hasidic Rastafarian - reluctant to reveal anything. Determined to clear his name, Ahmed joins the detectives as they investigate the connection between a disbanded hip-hop group and the fiery extremist preachers clamoring for attention in the streets. Meanwhile, an ecstasy variant called Godzwill is taking the district by storm.

In his debut novel, Karim Miské demonstrates a masterful control of setting, as he moves effortlessly between the sensual streets of Paris and the synagogues of New York to reveal the truth behind a horrifying crime.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Ahmed Taroudant, the hero of Miské's marvelous debut, is a dreamer, mystery reader, and occasional marijuana smoker... Memories, erotic fantasies, and assorted reveries drift through the pages, but Rachel and Jean are no less rigorous in their investigation than more traditional detectives." - Publishers Weekly

"Miské's imaginative geography lies somewhere between the fantasy Belleville of Daniel Pennac, the strange world of Fred Vargas and the amoral fantastic of the television series Breaking Bad." - The Times Literary Supplement

"A poetic take on the traditional noir thriller." - Press Association

"A convincing world of the criminal underworld... written in sensuous prose... with a gift for setting, Miské's narrative twists through the mosques, prayer rooms and synagogues of Paris..." - The Lady

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SharonM

Prophetic with hindsight of recent tragic events of the Charlie Hebdo murders
Prophetic with hindsight of recent tragic events of the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris by religious extremists, and with increasing tension surrounding religious extremist groups, Arab Jazz by Karim Miské (originally written two years earlier) is set in the 19th arrondissement of Paris, where the inhabitants live in, not so much, a multicultural melting pot as a seething bubbling cauldron of religious hatred which is about to boil over. Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Jehovah's witnesses all live in close proximity to each other. Add corrupt police officers, rising tension between these groups, sociopolitical issues, oh and of course murder, then you have this engrossing gripping and all too realistic read.

Ahmed Taroudant is a loner and a dreamer. He also has some mental health issues. Ahmed prefers to stay in his apartment daydreaming, reading poetry and crime novels. Until, that is, the day he finds his neighbour, Laura Vignole, savagely murdered in her apartment located directly above his. Enter detectives, Jean Hamelot and Rachel Kupferstein. The two detectives discover that Ahmed has a key to Rachel's flat, however they do not believe that he is their prime suspect, and this is where it's gets interesting. Ahmed, desperately wants to find the killer as he believes he has been set up to take the blame.

The characters are vividly portrayed, and fully fleshed out. I really got a feel of who they were and how their life experiences had shaped their personalities. Of particular interest to me was Jean and the dark demons from his past. His, is an unsettling character that could certainly be developed and I would love to read more about him and the duo's adventures.

Albeit a seriously prophetic, gritty crime thriller there are also some humorous moments for instance when a pair of killers are attempting to dispose of the body of one of their victims. It is perverse but also amusing.

The pace is initially slow but progresses steadily into a riveting read that definitely held my interest throughout. The plot is uncomplicated but the relationships between the developing characters and their religious beliefs, and the unravelling of events were a little confusing. I compiled my own crime scene chart (in a note book, not a huge wall mounted one!) and had great satisfaction lining up the characters and their developing relationships to each other. There is a fair amount of data, and backfill information so this process was definitely beneficial to me in keeping pace as the story unfolded.
(Originally reviewed in April 2015)

The one niggle I had was the slightly 'Scooby Doo' mystery reveal at the end, but that's such a small niggle it's hardly worth noting, although I did detract a point on an otherwise 5/5 rating.

I loved it and definitely recommend it to anyone interested in unusual crime noir with a twisted edginess.

Karim Miské is a journalist and documentary maker and is born to a Mauritian Muslim father and a French Atheist Marxist mother. Arab Jazz is an exciting debut novel and I'm eager to see what he does next.

Arab Jazz is translated from the original French into English by Sam Gordon. I'm usually a little wary of translated novels as they don't always work well in my opinion but this is extremely well done.

Gushing over ... Just read it!

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More Information

Born in 1964 in Abidjan to a Mauritanian father and a French mother, Karim Miské grew up in Paris before leaving to study journalism in Dakar. He now lives in France, and is making documentary films on a wide range of subjects, including deafness, for which he learned sign language, and the common roots between the Jewish and Islamic religions. Arab Jazz is the author's first novel.

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