Arab Jazz by Karim Miské

Arab Jazz by Karim Miské

Actions cause effects that ripple outwards: no action effects only one person. Such is the overriding tone and message of the debut offering from Karim Miské. Set in Paris the story begins with a murder, and the investigations reveal far more.  Please read on for my review of

Arab Jazz

The 19th Arrondissement houses multiple ethnicities: a lower-working class neighborhood off the right bank of the Seine, traditionally the area houses those not native to France.  With our protagonist Ahmed Taroudant is both the one who discovers a grisly murder, but the primary suspect.  Unfortunately for him, his personal relationship with the victim, Laura Vignole, his familiarity with  her upstairs apartment, holding a key and the tone of a religious themed murder all raise questions.  In this country that prided itself in secular equality, the cracks are starting to show, and the ‘quiet communal neighborhood’ is far less so.

Miské uses Ahmed to discover these cracks and hidden (or perhaps not so hidden) prejudices, hatreds, frustrations and secrets even as the two detectives assigned to solve the murder are investigating him.   What a series of twists and turns that bring forth issues that resonate today:  the fear of different, religious intolerance and fundamentalist thinking, anger and frustration that create a pressure cooker of untapped and unrelieved pressure as the neighborhood begins to feel more like a containment rather than a part of the city.

While I am convinced that there are nuances lost in the translation, and that moments of this debut author’s prose wander off into thoughts and descriptions that are better left unsaid, the writing is purposeful and graceful. Each new character brings history, beliefs and personalities that intermingle in ways expected and not.  Unearthing the dangers of fundamentalism, the effects of tolerance and it’s lack, the basic denial of humanity and the essence of the individual within all of those competing elements all combine into a bubbling pot, allowing the resentments to form and grow. Ahmed is forced to confront his own beliefs, his place in society, Paris and France itself as the search for the murderer and their reasons are unearthed.

Not an easy read by any means, there are complex issues lying in the pages of this book, with perspectives that are informative and quite revealing and thought-provoking.  A solid debut offering that provides an intelligent and twisty murder mystery with so much more.

Arab Jazz by Karim Miské

Title: Arab Jazz
Author: Karim Miské
Genre: Contemporary Mystery, France, Multi-Cultural, Suspense Elements
Published by: Quercus
Published on: 10 September, 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 304
Rated: four-stars
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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.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About Karim Miské

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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