For­giv­ing Mariela Camacho

  • Review
By – February 1, 2016

A.J. Sidran­sky has writ­ten a com­pelling sequel to For­giv­ing Max­i­mo Roth­man (2013). New York City homi­cide detec­tives Tolya Kurchenko and Pete Gon­za­lvez report to the scene of a sui­cide in an ele­gant Man­hat­tan apart­ment. Pete rec­og­nizes the dead woman, Mariela Cama­cho; they grew up togeth­er in the Domini­can Repub­lic and she was the love of his life. He knows that she did not kill her­self, but con­vinc­ing his cap­tain of this fact is not easy. As Pete and Tolya inves­ti­gate, they find links to a series of sim­i­lar deaths in oth­er coun­tries, and real­ize that they must begin search­ing for an inter­na­tion­al ser­i­al killer. The killer’s next tar­get may be Tolya’s Domini­can wife, Karin. A for­mer police offi­cer, Karin now works at the Muse­um of Jew­ish Her­itage where she is prepar­ing to open an exhib­it about the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty of Sosúa in the Domini­can Repub­lic. She is also con­vert­ing to Judaism and hop­ing that Tolya, a Sovi­et émi­gré who is not offi­cial­ly con­sid­ered Jew­ish, will join her and their two old­er sons at the mikvah.

This page-turn­er is more than a first-rate mys­tery. It explores fam­i­ly bonds and dys­func­tion­al rela­tion­ships, Jew­ish iden­ti­ty, and the inti­mate con­nec­tion that devel­ops between police part­ners. It also brings to light the lit­tle-known role that the Domini­can Repub­lic played in res­cu­ing Jew­ish refugees dur­ing World War II. Sidran­sky paints a vivid pic­ture of life in the Domini­can Repub­lic and in the Domini­can com­mu­ni­ty of Wash­ing­ton Heights. As the case unfolds, he trans­ports the read­er to San­to Domin­go, the Sovi­et Union, Israel, and Ger­many with equal pre­ci­sion. The per­spec­tives of the detec­tives, the vic­tim, var­i­ous fam­i­ly mem­bers, are deft­ly inter­wo­ven with that of the killer.

Mys­tery read­ers will great­ly enjoy this nov­el, but it will also appeal to all read­ers look­ing for new and insight­ful explo­rations of Jew­ish iden­ti­ty, inter­mar­riage, and parenting.

Bar­bara M. Bibel is a librar­i­an at the Oak­land Pub­lic Library in Oak­land, CA; and at Con­gre­ga­tion Netiv­ot Shalom, Berke­ley, CA.

Discussion Questions