Mur­der in Jerusalem

Batya Gur
  • Review
By – November 7, 2011

Batya Gur has been one of Israel’s most pop­u­lar mys­tery writ­ers. Her Michael Ohay­on series of sus­pense tales have been well received, mak­ing her a house­hold name from Eilat to Metul­la. Mur­der in Jerusalem (trans­lat­ed by Evan Fal­l­en­berg), Gur’s last work (she passed away in spring of 2005), is much in the vein of her oth­er books. Amur­der has occurred on the premis­es of Israel Tele­vi­sion and the inves­ti­ga­tion of this com­plex world of jour­nal­ists, actors, writ­ers, direc­tors, edi­tors, and assort­ed tele­vi­sion per­son­al­i­ties makes the solv­ing of the crime an exca­va­tion of the dif­fer­ent lay­ers of Israeli society.

In many ways, Gur’s work bears marked sim­i­lar­i­ty to mys­tery nov­els writ­ten in oth­er lan­guages and places. What is strik­ing about Mur­der in Jerusalem, how­ev­er, is the way in which it cap­tures the sig­nif­i­cance of child­hood friend­ships — a mal­leable cat­e­go­ry that includes rela­tion­ships formed in pre-school, youth groups, and of para­mount impor­tance, the army — in Israeli life. Amidst a com­pli­cat­ed tapes­try of sub­plots and social intrigue, the heart of the nov­el focus­es on the pow­er of youth­ful bonds and how a secret that rein­forces these bonds can also be the very device that destroys them. 

Gur also endeav­ors to infuse the plot with some native lit­er­ary fla­vor by lac­ing the sto­ry­line with repeat­ed ref­er­ences to the eso­teric, some­what Goth­ic play, Iddo and Eynam, by the doyen of Israeli writ­ers, S.Y. Agnon. The inter-tex­tu­al repartée is well done, but prob­a­bly a bit too heav­i­ly sym­bol­ic for those unini­ti­at­ed in Israeli let­ters. Nev­er­the­less, Gur has added enough snip­pets of Israeli life to give the book a local tone and also presents an old-fash­ioned who done it” that is eas­i­ly acces­si­ble to read­ers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Shana Rosen­blatt Mauer is pur­su­ing doc­tor­al research in the field of Amer­i­can Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture. She lec­tures at the Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty, the Open Uni­ver­si­ty in Jerusalem, and teach­es Eng­lish at Har­man High School.

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