In 1952, a debate was held in Israel’s parliament the Knesset on a rather shocking proposal – for Israel to begin negotiations with Germany to receive reparations for the Holocaust. The prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, actively supported and promoted it. The party led by Menachem Begin did not. A riot occurred in which opponents of the resolution attacked the building in which the Knesset was meeting in Jerusalem. Scores were arrested; both the protestors and the police protecting the building sustained many injuries.
Israeli writer Jonathan Dunsky has incorporated that historical event into his seventh Adam Lapid mystery, A Death in Jerusalem. And Dunksy places his private detective right in the middle of the protest; the man who lost his wife, daughters, and mother to the holocaust is outraged at even the suggestion of the idea of reparations. Lapid finds himself in jail, the intense focus of a policeman who seems to be waging a personal vendetta against the detective.
Lapid is unexpectedly released from custody. The source is a Tel Aviv manufacturing executive with influence, and he wants the detective to find out why his daughter, a young nurse in her 20s, committed suicide. Lapid accepts the job, and he soon discovers that nothing is what it appears. In the nurse’s apartment, he finds a gun used to kill a doctor. Staff at the hospital where she worked all seem to be hiding something, and for different reasons. Even his client fails to give Laipd information that might help explain what happened. And lurking in the background is the policeman who arrested him, ready to mete out his own form of justice.
A Death in Jerusalem is the second Adam Laipd story set outside Tel Aviv (the first five were all located there) and the first to be set in Jerusalem. (The sixth, The Auschwitz Detective, was set in the infamous death camp.) It’s also a complex story, with several sub-plot story lines requiring close attention to characters. This is not a story you can easily breeze through, for that complexity reason as well as the underlying themes of the Holocaust and reparations. This is not a cozy mystery you finish in one sitting.
Dunsky is best known for his Adam Lapid mystery stories, with seven published: Ten Years Gone, The Dead Sister, The Auschwitz Violinist, A Debt of Death, A Deadly Act, The Auschwitz Detective, and now A Death in Jerusalem. He’s also published The Favor: A Tale of Friendship and Murder; Family Ties; Tommy’s Touch: A Fantasy Love Story; the short story “The Unlucky Woman,” 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.
A Death in Jerusalem captures the sense of Israel at the beginning it its modern statehood. It was a place and a time in which anger, occasional rage, corruption, and sharp business practice coexisted with the patriotic and heartfelt desire to build a nation for the Jews. Dunsky adroitly maneuvers his characters between these two poles, which are sometimes not as far apart as they might appear at first glance.