The city of Holon, Israel, was founded in 1935 as almost a collection of tents in the sand dunes just about four miles from Tel Aviv. Today, it is a city of 188,000, and is known for its industrial base and for being part of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.
Holon is also the base for Avraham Avraham, a police detective in his late 30s, unmarried, somewhat estranged from his parents. He is struggling with what sounds like a bad case of depression when a mother arrives at the police station to report her teenaged son is missing. It’s only a few hours after school, and Avraham knows that most cases of missing teenagers are resolved quickly. He tells her to go home and wait, and he will check with her in the morning.
The boy is still missing in the morning. The police machinery begins to turn. Avraham’s investigating team interviews schoolmates, neighbors, teachers, and anyone who might have seen the boy. What’s worrisome is that he left his laptop and cell phone in his bedroom. And no one saw him going to school on the day he disappeared.
One neighbor, a teacher at the boy’s school and a one-time English tutor for the boy, begins to tell his own story. He’s almost desperate to be involved in the police investigation, and even makes an anonymous phone call reporting the boy’s body to be in nearby sand dunes. Is he actually involved in the disappearance, or is something really strange happening?
The Missing File, published in English in 2013, is the first of three Avraham Avraham detective novels by Israeli author D.A. Mishani, a crime writer and scholar of historical detective fiction. He lives in Tel Aviv and teaches at Tel Aviv University. The second novel in the series is A Possibility of Violence (2014) and The Man Who Wanted to Know Everything (2016).
The Missing File, translated from the Hebrew by Stephen Cohen, is a crime novel and a psychological novel combined into one story. Mishani probes motivations of his characters, and lets them talk and think for the reader to see what is unfolding. It begins rather slowly, and then builds. From almost the beginning the solution seems obvious, and then it doesn’t, as Mishani slowly unfolds a surprise. And then another. And we realize that, in the world of Avraham Avraham, nothing is ever what it seems to be.
It’s an absorbing, well-plotted story.
Top photograph: A block of apartment buildings in Holon, Israel, via Wikimedia Commons.