It may be a new mystery sub-genre.
D.A. Mishani has his Avraham Avraham police detective novels, set in contemporary Tel Aviv. And now Jonathan Dunksy has published a series of Tel-Aviv-based novels, but with a private investigator as the protagonist and set in the early years of Israel’s modern history, when both the Holocaust and the recently concluded war with the Arab nations hanging heavy over the country.
The first in the series is Ten Years Gone.
It’s 1949, and private eye Adam Lapid spends a good portion of each day at Greta’s Café in Tel Aviv, drinking coffee and playing chess. Lapid is originally from Hungary, where he was a police detective. That is, until he was sent to Auschwitz. He survived; his wife and two daughters did not. And he blames himself for not getting his family to safety until it was too late.
Lapid also uses violence when he deems it necessary or appropriate. He killed at least two former Nazis in cold blood after World War II ended. The Holocaust changed his views of justice. He’s also something of a war hero, for his heroic actions in taking out an Egyptian machine gun nest that had pinned down his unit in the Negev during the war for independence.
He takes on an impossible case. A woman asks him to find her son, the baby she gave to a friend in 1939 who was leaving Germany to try to get to Israel. The woman herself didn’t make it out before the war started but was able to obtain false identity papers and stay hidden under an assumed (and Aryan) name in Frankfort. She’s trying to find her son. But she doesn’t even know if he and the friend made it to Palestine; the British were ferociously trying to stop illegal Jewish immigration to the British Mandate.
Lapid talks to police and a journalist, and he’s eventually able to learn that the friend and the baby made it to Tel Aviv and lived under different names. Yet some months after their arrival, they were both gruesomely murdered. It seems a dead end, but Lapid considers his own murdered daughters. And he decides to do everything he can to find the killer.
It’s a dark, fascinating tale.
Jonathan Dunsky has published four Adam Lapid mysteries: Ten Years Gone; The Dead Sister; The Auschwitz Violinist; and A Debt of Death. He’s also published The Favor: A Tale of Friendship and Murder; Grandma Rachel’s Ghosts; Family Ties; Tommy’s Touch: A Fantasy Love Story; and other works. He was born in Israel, served four years in the Israeli Army, lived in Europe for several years, and currently lives in Israel with his family. He has worked in various high-tech firms and operated his own search optimization business.
Ten Years Gone artfully blends history and mystery in a riveting read.
Top photo: A bus from Tel Aviv to the town of Netanya in 1949. Adam Lapid takes a bus just like this one to Netanya during his murder investigation.