The Dis­ap­pear­ing Dowry: An Ezra Melamed Mystery

  • Review
By – October 31, 2011
This his­tor­i­cal detec­tive sto­ry takes place in Eng­land in 1810, with a voice styled in the man­ner of Jane Austen. As in some of Austen’s works, the fam­i­ly of the bride — the theft of whose dowry forms the back­bone of the plot — exist on the edge of the upper class, and many of their inter­ac­tions revolve around fam­i­ly eco­nom­ics and mar­i­tal prospects. How­ev­er, this book intro­duces us to char­ac­ters from all the cor­ners of London’s Jew­ish soci­ety, from its wealthy bene­fac­tors, to mer­chants and arti­sans, and down to its own crew of pick­pock­ets. We see that Jews in the com­mu­ni­ty lived many dif­fer­ent lives. One of the book’s strengths as a work of his­tor­i­cal fic­tion is that it moves beyond just local col­or,” weav­ing a plot that depends on events in British and Jew­ish his­to­ry that may not be well-known to US read­ers, but which were inte­gral to the expe­ri­ences of ear­ly 19th cen­tu­ry Jews. Young male read­ers may need some encour­age­ment to get past the pro­logue, which is con­trived as a young woman’s attempts to befriend her imag­ined female read­er­ship. In fact, the sto­ry itself should appeal to both gen­ders equal­ly. A good buy for Jew­ish children’s col­lec­tions that are look­ing for appro­pri­ate nov­els for old­er chil­dren and young adults, espe­cial­ly books that are focused on pos­i­tive peri­ods in our his­to­ry. For ages 10 – 14.
Nao­mi Morse man­aged a pub­lic library children’s room in Mont­gomery Coun­ty, Mary­land for many years, and then worked as head librar­i­an at the Charles E. Smith Jew­ish Day School Low­er School in Rockville, Mary­land. She has served on AJL’s Syd­ney Tay­lor Com­mit­tee, and last year (2008) was a mem­ber of ALA’s Calde­cott Com­mit­tee. She is an inde­pen­dent book reviewer.

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