“Sometimes, revenge is more important for the soul than forgiveness” — and with this observation A.J. Sidransky embarks on the third and final case to be solved by Tolya Kurchenko and Pete Gonzalvez. They are work partners and best friends whose inherent machismo doesn’t often allow for open displays of emotion, yet their mutual affection is apparent when they refer to each other as “Brotherman.”
The action moves between the detectives’ neighborhood of Washington Heights, NY, to Sosua, the Jewish community created on wild land in the Dominican Republic during World War II by the notorious dictator Rafael Trujillo. Though Trujillo was ostensibly providing a safe haven for the many Jews who arrived, fleeing certain misery and death in the concentration camps of Eastern Europe, there was a significant catch. Sidransky describes the evils committed by Trujillo and his henchmen, especially the trauma inflicted upon young Dominican women.
Though these abominations were perpetrated over eighty years ago, they remain fresh in the minds of Erno/Ernesto, an old dying man, and his best friend, Max/Maximo Rothman, who escaped Nazi Europe and found a temporary home in the Dominican Republic. Sidransky weaves the tale of Erno and Max’s connection and how they each emigrated once again, to the northernmost part of New York City, where a community of Dominicans developed over the years. The story is told mostly in dialogue, including some easily translated Dominican Spanish slang. Erno is a kind of adopted uncle to Stephen Redmond, Max’s son; Erno’s the more compassionate counterpart to Max in his relationship with Stephen. The long-term residents of The Heights describe the changes in the neighborhood, for better or worse, especially gentrification. Indeed, it’s during the demolition and reconstruction process that the dead bodies in this story are uncovered.
The author notes that though this is the third consecutive book to be published in the series, readers can avoid spoilers by starting with Forgiving Maximo Rothman (2013), followed by this book, saving Forgiving Mariela Camacho, (2015) for last.
The trio of novels is certainly relevant to today’s refugees’ experiences, whether they are fleeing genocide, war, military coups, xenophobia, or extreme poverty, whether they are emigrated from communist Russia, Cuba, Central America or another difficult spot in our tumultuous world. Like the others in the series, Forgiving Stephen Redmond moves along at a quick pace. Anyone who enjoys reading detective stories, mysteries, and descriptions of life in other lands and cultures would enjoy this tale.
Miriam Bradman Abrahams, mom, grandmom, avid reader, sometime writer, born in Havana, raised in Brooklyn, residing in Long Beach on Long Island. Longtime former One Region One Book chair and JBC liaison for Nassau Hadassah, currently presenting Incident at San Miguel with author AJ Sidransky who wrote the historical fiction based on her Cuban Jewish refugee family’s experiences during the revolution. Fluent in Spanish and Hebrew, certified hatha yoga instructor.