This crime story takes place in a fictional Orthodox Israeli kibbutz, Kerem El. It begins with the murder of Rebbe Elijah Lachmann, the spiritual leader of the kibbutz. Ostensibly, the murderer is the Rebbe’s son-in-law Shmaya. But Shmaya is clearly psychologically damaged, and one of the kibbutz elders, Lydia di Rossi, is convinced he didn’t do it, in spite of his confession. She implores her young friend Rachel Shine, a therapist from Jerusalem back at the kibbutz for the family Passover celebration, to help her investigate.
Rachel uncovers a surprising number of possible suspects, many of whom feared their worst secrets could have been exposed by the Rebbe. She is aided in her investigation by the handsome Chief-Inspector Absalom Brill, who is attracted to Rachel in part because she resembles his ex-girlfriend.
The bodies pile up and Rachel herself is in increasing danger, with the story culminating in a terrifying denouement.
Discussion: The author does a good job of providing numerous red herrings so that we never really know who is actually guilty until Rachel herself finds out at the end. But this story most interested me because of its setting, in the insular religious community of the kibbutz. Many Americans, myself included, read crime novels mainly set in the U.S., Britain, or Scandinavia. I loved the opportunity to read about what life is like for both the religious and not-so-religious people of Israel, and to learn more about the ongoing repercussions of the political strife in the region. The author carefully weaves a number of different perspectives into her story, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions.
Evaluation: I always appreciate crime mysteries that enable me to learn something in the process of reading. This book provides that opportunity.
Published by Pardes Publishing, 2016