Bethlehem Road Murder: A Michael Ohayon Mystery

Bethlehem Road Murder: A Michael Ohayon Mystery

by Batya Gur
     
 

Internationally acclaimed author Batya Gur is known for her psychologically astute mysteries set in Israel and for the brooding and attractive Chief Superintendent Michael Ohayon they feature. In her latest novel, the body of a young woman is discovered in the attic of a Bethlehem Road house, in a neighborhood of Jerusalem known for its impenetrability to outsiders

Overview

Internationally acclaimed author Batya Gur is known for her psychologically astute mysteries set in Israel and for the brooding and attractive Chief Superintendent Michael Ohayon they feature. In her latest novel, the body of a young woman is discovered in the attic of a Bethlehem Road house, in a neighborhood of Jerusalem known for its impenetrability to outsiders. Chief Superintendent Ohayon is called to the scene of the crime, where, beyond the usual horror, an old love and an unfinished romance await him.

In the style that has made Batya Gur an author who is read the world over, Bethlehem Road Murder spins out a complex and fascinating murder investigation set in a Jerusalem neighborhood that encapsulates the entire Israeli experience in miniature. This closed world with rules and a logic of its own is one in which each character has a secret he or she is struggling to hide.

Chief Superintendent Ohayon's criminal investigation is conducted against the backdrop of tensions between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, hostility between Jews and Arabs, the affair of the kidnapped Yemenite children, and the al Aqsa Intifada. During the course of the investigation Michael Ohayon uncovers what is concealed beneath the surface reality, and in so doing, powerfully and dramatically reveals the subtext of Israeli society today.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Israeli author Gur's outstanding police procedural, her fifth Michael Ohayon mystery (after 1998's Murder Duet), can hold its own with the best work of P.D. James. Chief Superintendent Ohayon, a restrained and understated figure who will remind many of James's Adam Dalgleish, investigates the brutal murder of an attractive young woman whose bludgeoned corpse is found by chance in the attic of a house undergoing renovation in Jerusalem's Baka neighborhood. Despite a subordinate's suspicions of a Palestinian laborer who was working on the building, Ohayon sets his team to exploring the victim's complex relationships, which include those with her employer, an older lawyer who decided for some reason to give her a valuable apartment, and her mother, an immigrant who recently began attending secret meetings. The detective's discovery that the dead woman had been probing one of the worst scandals in Israel's history suggests that she might have been silenced because some individuals implicated in that horror feared disclosure. Gur excels at creating living, breathing secondary characters, and in Ohayon she has fashioned a three-dimensional, intelligent and empathetic hero whose patience and compassion lead him to the tragic truth. This engrossing psychological study should appeal to a wide readership, not just those fascinated with the promises and paradoxes of the Jewish state. Agents, Deborah Harris and Flip Brophy. (Dec. 17) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In Gur's Jerusalem, some Jews hate Jews more than they do Arabs. When Chief Superintendent Michael Ohayon of the Special Crimes Unit finds the brutally murdered body of a once-beautiful Yemenite girl, awkward questions inevitably arise. Bleak and bitter as they are, they're not new to him. Racial hostility between the largely black Yemenites and the largely white Ashkenazim is a fact of Israeli life that has its roots in misunderstanding, mistrust, and the kind of ethnic myopia enlightened Jews would love to consign to history. Now, Zahara Bashari lies lifeless, her face smashed beyond recognition by someone who clearly hated her. But is the killing ethnic? True, she was outspoken, publicly passionate, even militant on behalf of her origins. On the other hand, the police pathologist reveals that she was four months pregnant, an argument in support of a more personal motive. Risk-taking Zahara was such a lightning rod for deep-seated emotions of every kind that Ohayon and his volatile special cops-a team that finds bickering as natural as breathing-confront a suspect list rich in possibilities. As usual, the investigation is more hit or miss than purposeful, but in the end justice is served in Ohayon's own style. Gur hasn't outgrown the usual blemishes of this series (Murder Duet, 2003, etc.): thin plotting, shaky prose, characterization that too often echoes soap opera. Even so, her Jerusalem still fascinates.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060195731
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
12/14/2004
Series:
Michael Ohayon Series, #5
Pages:
368
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.17(d)

Read an Excerpt

Bethlehem Road Murder

A Michael Ohayon Mystery
By Gur, Batya

HarperCollins Publishers

ISBN: 0060195738

Chapter One

There comes a moment in a person's life when he fully realizes that if he does not throw himself into action, if he does not stop being afraid to gamble, and if he does not follow the urgings of his heart that have been silent for many a year -- he will never do it.

Chief Superintendent Michael Ohayon did not say these things aloud, but this is exactly what he thought as he listened to the grumblings of Danny Balilty, the deputy commander of the intelligence division, who grumbled incessantly while Ohayon leaned over the corpse. He knelt to get a better look at the silk fibers that dangled from the rip in the scarf around her neck, beneath the face that had been smashed into a pulp of blood and bone.

Ada Efrati, who had called them, was waiting for them on the landing of the second floor, in front of the apartment she had bought. The moment they arrived Balilty had battered her with questions that he ultimately assured her would be pursued extensively the following day by Chief Superintendent Ohayon. He'd failed to notice the look of astonishment on Michael's face as he climbed up the twisting external stairs behind him to the second, and top, floor of the building. Even then, when he first saw her in the twilight, Balilty had looked over his shoulder and wondered about her ("Is she worth it or not? What do you say?" andwithout waiting had answered himself: "She's a tough one. She's got pretty lips, but you see those two lines near her mouth? They say: Not interested. But did you see that body on her? And those nerves she has? Nerves of steel. We've seen ordinary people after they find a body and she -- look how she stands there.").

Balilty kept up his grumbling as Dr. Solomon, the pathologist who had just come back from a monthlong special training course in the United States, leaned over the body. In intervals between murmuring to himself as he examined her, Solomon told them about the latest innovations in the field of DNA that he had brought back from America. He palpated the corpse's feet and ran a fingernail over the skin of her arm as he recited data on body temperature into the little microphone of the recording device hanging around his neck. From time to time he looked over at his balding assistant, a new immigrant from Russia who followed his superior's every move and kept wiping his damp hands on his light khaki pants.

The two people from Forensics were also on the scene. Yaffa was taking photographs from various angles around the huge water tanks between which the body sprawled.

"Get a load of this," muttered Balilty as they climbed up the creaky wooden ladder to the narrow opening that led out to the attic under the tiled roof. "There's still water here from the siege of Jerusalem in 1948."

Then Yaffa knelt down, and through a rip in her jeans peeped a bit of white skin as from close up she photographed the smashed face and then the skeletons of the pigeons and the desiccated dead cat that had been thrown on top of them. Alon from Forensics, who had been introduced to Michael as a chemistry student ("They say he's some kind of genius, a prodigy, ab-so-lute-ly brilliant," mocked Balilty skeptically; "What he wants with us, I don't know"), shook the cramps out of his legs, rolled the white chalk between his fingers and ran his hand along the yellow marking tape. It was evident that he was waiting impatiently for the pathologist to finish and allow them to mark the scene.

When the call from headquarters came in, Balilty and Michael had been in the car on their way to the Baka neighborhood to have a look at the apartment Michael had just bought. When they arrived in front of the building, just around the corner from Michael's new place, Balilty looked at the rounded balcony and at the arched windows on either side of it, and with astonishment that he concealed behind pursed lips he said: "Is this a castle, this thing? And they've bought it now? Look at the size of it." Then in the yard they floundered among wild sorrel and weeds and he pointed to a tree that spread large limbs up to the second floor and said: "That's a dead tree. It should be uprooted."

Linda, the real estate agent, whom Michael had picked up in their car so she could show Balilty the apartment he had bought, gave him a dirty look. She stopped in front of the tree and stared at Balilty. "What are you talking about? This tree is the most beautiful tree in the neighborhood. It's a wild pear that has simply shed its leaves for the winter."

But Balilty, who never liked to be corrected, hastened up the outside staircase where Ada Efrati was waiting for them at the top. Even before they reached the landing, she said in a shaky voice: "Up there on the roof, there's a woman and she ... she's ... she's dead. They smashed her face in. It's horrible ... I've never seen ... It's awful ... awful."

Balilty exchanged a few sentences with her and hurried into the apartment. He advanced through the spacious corridor into the large room from which the shaky wooden ladder led up to the space under the tile roof.

"Have you called the ambulance?" asked Michael, who hadn't meant to get into a conversation with Ada just then, but she said: "No, she's dead. I saw that right away ... I ... I've seen dead people before. We realized we had to call the police immediately."

Then, as he lowered his head to the walkie-talkie and told headquarters to send out the Forensics people and the pathologist at once, Ada Efrati said: "Michael? Is that you, Michael?" Continues...


Excerpted from Bethlehem Road Murder by Gur, Batya Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author

Batya Gur (1947-2005) lived in Jerusalem, where she was a literary critic for Haaretz, Israel's most prestigious paper. She earned her master's in Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and she also taught literature for nearly twenty years.

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