The body of a young Yemeni woman is discovered in the attic of a Bethlehem Road house, in a Jerusalem neighborhood famous for its impenetrability to outsiders. The victim, once a beauty, is no longer lovely her face has been brutally smashed.
More than the usual horror greets Chief Superintendent Michael Ohayon in the closed and inscrutable Baka, for an old love and an unfinished romance await him there as well. But much more is concealed beneath the surface of this gruesome homicide as tensions between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, hostility between Arabs and Jews, the half-century-old business of kidnapped Yemenite children, and the al Aqsa Intifada of 2000 add fuel to a terrible fire that might never be contained.
Israeli author Gur's outstanding police procedural, her fifth Michael Ohayon mystery (after 1998's Murder Duet), can hold its own with the best work of P.D. James. Chief Superintendent Ohayon, a restrained and understated figure who will remind many of James's Adam Dalgleish, investigates the brutal murder of an attractive young woman whose bludgeoned corpse is found by chance in the attic of a house undergoing renovation in Jerusalem's Baka neighborhood. Despite a subordinate's suspicions of a Palestinian laborer who was working on the building, Ohayon sets his team to exploring the victim's complex relationships, which include those with her employer, an older lawyer who decided for some reason to give her a valuable apartment, and her mother, an immigrant who recently began attending secret meetings. The detective's discovery that the dead woman had been probing one of the worst scandals in Israel's history suggests that she might have been silenced because some individuals implicated in that horror feared disclosure. Gur excels at creating living, breathing secondary characters, and in Ohayon she has fashioned a three-dimensional, intelligent and empathetic hero whose patience and compassion lead him to the tragic truth. This engrossing psychological study should appeal to a wide readership, not just those fascinated with the promises and paradoxes of the Jewish state. Agents, Deborah Harris and Flip Brophy. (Dec. 17) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.