The Auschwitz Violinist | Book Review


When a man greets Adam Lapid on the streets of Tel Aviv, Lapid recognizes him as a fellow prisoner at Auschwitz named Yosef Kaplon. A few days later, Kaplon slits his wrists and a friend asks Lapid to figure out why. His investigation opens a window on Holocaust survivors, collaboration, and vengeance.

Before the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial, many Israelis poorly understood the experience of European Jews who had survived the Shoah, and the survivors rarely spoke about their experiences.

Some Israelis—sabras, “natives”—felt that European Jews had been too weak and compliant in the face of oppression. The “new Zionist man” would show the world that Jews couldn’t be pushed around. Survivors felt differently, of course. There had been little they could do, and there were few Gentiles willing to help.

After the war, radicals began targeting Nazi officers and camp guards for assassination because the Allies were doing relatively little to bring the perpetrators of genocide to justice. This the background leading up to the Mossad’s capture of Eichmann in 1960. The radicals also took a dim view of European Jews whom they felt had collaborated with the enemy: the Judenrat(ghetto police), Kapos(concentration camp supervisors), even musicians forced to play in camp orchestras.

Dunsky uses this mix of survival, collaboration, and vengeance as the background to The Auschwitz Violinist, which is the third Adam Lapid novel. On the whole, he does a good job. I will note, however, that when Dunsky introduced a particular character in particular, I had a premonition he would turn out to be the bad guy. And I was right. I can’t say whether this was because I have read too many mysteries or because Dunsky telegraphed the ending unwittingly. Probably the former.

So, three stars for The Auschwitz Violinistfrom me, but it’s still a page-turner, and I look forward to the fourth novel in the series.

Book Reviewed
Jonathan Dunsky, The Auschwitz Violinist: An Adam Lapid Mystery(Charleston, NC: CreateSpace, 2016).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

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The Dead Sister | Book Review


“I knew he was an Arab the moment I saw him.” With these words, Jonathan Dunsky opens The Dead Sister, the second in a series of mysteries featuring Adam Lapid. They are pregnant with meaning, given that the story takes place in Tel Aviv in October 1949.

On May 14, 1948, Israel had declared independence. The next day, five Arab nations declared war on Israel, vowing to fight with and on behalf of Palestinian Arabs in order to erase the Jewish state. A U.N.-sponsored armistice ended the war on March 10, 1949.

In the aftermath of the war, approximately 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were displaced from their homes, an event they memorialize to this day as the Nakba(“Disaster”). A slightly larger group of Jews were expelled from their ancestral homes in the Middle East, most of them settling in Israel. Tensions continued to run high between Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews, many of whom had literally fought one another just months earlier.

So when Ahmed Jamalka asks Adam Lapid to solve the mystery of his sister’s murder, it’s not a foregone conclusion that Lapid will take the case. They had fought on opposite sides of the recent war, after all. But the case has languished in the hands of Tel Aviv police, who think the woman’s death is an honor killing. But larger forces are at work, and Lapid’s sense of justice drives him to follow the clues wherever they lead, whatever forces they offend.

And in the end, we discover, as Solzhenitsyn so famously put it: “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart—and through all human hearts.” Arab andIsraeli.

Book Reviewed
Jonathan Dunsky, The Dead Sister: An Adam Lapid Mystery(Charleston, NC: CreateSpace, 2016).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Ten Years Gone | Book Review


Ten Years Gone brings together three things I love: Israel, mystery, and sequels. It is the first of four novels by Jonathan Dunsky featuring Adam Lapid, a private detective in post-Independence Tel Aviv. (By first, I mean that the events it narrates come first in the series. It was actually written third.) Having completed it, I’m already on to the next novel, The Dead Sister.

Lapid was a Jewish police detective in Hungary before World War II. His wife and children didn’t survive Auschwitz, but he did. After the Allies liberated Buchenwald, he stayed in Europe for a time, hunting down former Nazi officers and meting out vengeance. Then he immigrated to Palestine, joined the Haganah, and fought heroically in the War of Independence. After the war, he took up private detecting on the streets of Tel Aviv.

In that capacity, a German Jewess who was able to pass herself off as Gentile during the war comes to him with a request. In 1939, she had sent her son ahead with a friend to Palestine, hoping soon to follow in their steps. That didn’t happen. Ten years later, she can’t find either the woman or her son, so she hires Lapid to do so.

The problem? Both the woman and the boy were murdered in 1939. Lapid doesn’t have the heart to tell his client just yet, so instead, he reopens the case to solve their murders. Along the way, he uncovers secrets and lies involving the dead woman, her circle of acquaintances, and the Irgun, the radical group which worked hard in the pre-Independence era to speed both Jewish entry and British exit from Palestine…violently, if necessary.

The tale is competently told. It’s not at the level of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch novels or Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon novels, but it’s good. My first rule for evaluating mysteries is that it must keep me turning pages to see what happens next. Ten Years Gonedid. I look forward to reading the other books in the series.

Book Reviewed
Jonathan Dunsky, Ten Years Gone: An Adam Lapid Mystery (Charleston, NC: CreateSpace, 2017).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Two Kinds of Truth | Book Review


Two Kinds of Truth begins with the interruption of an interruption of an investigation. Retired from the LAPD, Harry Bosch is volunteering with the San Fernando police as a cold-case investigator. While working a 15-year-old unsolved mission person case, he is summoned to a meeting with an assistant district attorney as well as two LAPD detectives, one of whom is his former partner, Lucia Soto. They inform him that DNA evidence has reopened a homicide case he solved thirty years prior, suggesting that his investigation of it was tainted. In the middle of that meeting, he is summoned to the scene of a double homicide at a local pharmacy.

Who killed the two pharmacists? Did Bosch put the wrong man in jail? And what happened to the missing person? Those are the questions Harry Bosch sets out to answer in Michael Connelly’s twenty-second novel featuring him.

As always, Connelly has written a page turner. I finished it in two sittings. But I noticed that I wasn’t as excited about this novel as I was about his July 2017 book, The Late Show, which introduced LAPD detective Renée Ballard. I’m hoping—expecting—a second novel about her sometime next year. (Read my review of The Late Show here.)

Now, don’t get me wrong! If you like Harry Bosch, read Two Kinds of Truth. But now that Bosch is 67 years old, his career—even as a volunteer investigator—feels like it’s winding down. My guess is that Connelly has one more book planned for Bosch, one that solves a fourth mystery mentioned in this book, the brutal murder of a teenage girl. I look forward to that book, but I won’t be too sad if it’s Connelly’s last Bosch novel. He’s had a great run.

 

Book Reviewed
Michael Connelly, Two Kinds of Truth (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2017).

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Review of ‘Vertigo 42: A Richard Jury Mystery’ by Martha Grimes


Vertigo-42Martha Grimes, Vertigo 42: A Richard Jury Mystery (New York: Scribner, 2014). Hardcover | Paperback | Kindle

Vertigo 42 is the twenty-third mystery novel Martha Grimes has written, and like the others, it is named after an English pub or bar, this one high atop a skyscraper in downtown London where the action begins. And like the others, Scotland Yard Superintendent Richard Jury sleuths the mystery with help from his friend, Melrose Plant (the former Lord Ardry); his sergeant, Alfred Wiggins; and the cast of characters (in every sense of the term) from Long Piddleton.

The mystery in this case consists of four deaths: Hilda Palmer’s, a nine-year-old who died at Tom and Tess William’s house twenty-two years previously; Tess Williamson’s, who died five years after that; Belle Syms, whose death occurs near the book’s outset; and a man whose death occurs not long after and not far from Ms. Syms. With the exception of the man, who died of gunshot wounds, it’s not clear whether the women’s deaths were accidents, suicides, or murders.

Did I mention Stanley the dog, the “descendant” of Victorian-scourge Lytton Strachey, and Melrose Plant’s fabulous lifestyle? No, well, they’re all there, making for a plot that slowly unwinds and then twists…then twists again. If you’ve read Martha Grimes’ previous Jury novels, don’t miss this one. If you haven’t, start with The Man With a Load of Mischief and work your way through.

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P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.