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The Ritual Bath (Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus Series #1)

The Ritual Bath (Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus Series #1)

3.6 522
by Faye Kellerman

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Detective Peter Decker of the LAPD is stunned when he gets the report. Someone has shattered the sanctuary of a remote yeshiva community in the California hills with an unimaginable crime. One of the women was brutally raped as she returned from the mikvah, the bathhouse where the cleansing ritual is performed.

The crime was called in by Rina Lazarus, and


Detective Peter Decker of the LAPD is stunned when he gets the report. Someone has shattered the sanctuary of a remote yeshiva community in the California hills with an unimaginable crime. One of the women was brutally raped as she returned from the mikvah, the bathhouse where the cleansing ritual is performed.

The crime was called in by Rina Lazarus, and Decker is relieved to discover that she is a calm and intelligent witness. She is also the only one in the sheltered community willing to speak of this unspeakable violation. As Rina tries to steer Decker through the maze of religious laws, the two grow closer. But before they get to the bottom of this horrendous crime, revelations come to light that are so shocking, they threaten to come between the hard-nosed cop and the deeply religious woman with whom he has become irrevocably linked.

Editorial Reviews

San Diego Union-Tribune
Exceptionally fine suspense.
Los Angeles Times Book Review
Murder Inc.
Los Angeles Magazine
Move over, Dr. Ruth!
Beverly Hills Today
Just what cupid ordered!
Dr. Patricia Allen
The woman's movement brought us independence, but it did not bring us love.
Publishers Weekly

Like the series it inspired, Kellerman's award-winning 1986 debut novel combines police procedure, via hard-boiled LAPD detective Peter Decker, with Judaic rites and rituals courtesy of its heroine Rina Lazarus, an ultra-Orthodox widowed mother of two. Decker and Lazarus are brought together by the brutal rape of a young bride-to-be at the mikvah (a bathhouse used in the purification ritual) that Rina manages in the Hollywood hills. Mitchell Greenberg nicely vocalizes the story from Decker's point of view, with the detective struggling to stick to his sleuthing in spite of his developing feelings for Rina. The novel continually rings true, from explaining various Orthodox beliefs and customs to Decker and his crew's no-nonsense unmasking of the villain. Greenberg moves in and out of the novel's elements smoothly and efficiently. He paces the police work with just the right sense of urgency and frustration; handles the romantic sequences with the proper emotion and without a hint of sentimentality; and breezes through the many Jewish-centric passages with the confidence and clarity of a yeshiva graduate. An Avon paperback. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007Reed Business Information
Library Journal

This is Kellerman's first Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus mystery, published in 1986. When an orthodox Jewish woman is raped outside the mikvah(ritual bath), Det. Peter Decker is assigned to the case and soon becomes immersed in the insular world of the Yeshiva (orthodox Jewish school). While investigating the rape, Peter meets Rina Lazarus, the young widow who runs the bathhouse, and there is an immediate mutual attraction. Despite Rina's determination not to get involved with a Gentile, her romantic feelings toward Peter grow. The story is exciting, the characters are well developed, and the listener is introduced to Jewish law and ritual. Narrator Mitchell Greenberg does an excellent job; he pronounces the Jewish terms and Hebrew words correctly, and he gives each character an appropriate voice and accent. Highly recommended for mystery collections. [Also available as downloadable audio.-Ed.]
—Ilka Gordon

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus Series , #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

"The key to a good potato kugel is good potatoes," Sarah Libba shouted over the noise of the blow dryer. "The key to a great potato kugel is the amount of oil. You have to use just enough oil to make the batter moist, plus a little excess to leak out around the cake pan and fry the edges to make the whole thing nice and crisp without being too greasy."

Rina nodded and folded a towel. If anyone would know how to cook a potato kugel, it was Sarah Libba. The woman could roast a shoe and turn it into a delicacy. But tonight Rina was too fatigued to listen with a full ear. It was already close to ten o'clock, and she still had to clean the mikvah, then grade thirty papers.

It had been a busy evening because of the bride. A lot of to-do, hand-holding, and explaining. The young girl had been very nervous, but who wouldn't be about marriage? Rivki was barely seventeen with little knowledge of the world around her. Sheltered and exquisitely shy, she'd gotten engaged to Baruch after three dates. But Rina thought it was a good match. Baruch was a good student and kind and very patient. He'd never once lost his temper while teaching Shmuel how to ride a two-wheeler. He'd be calm yet encouraging, Rina decided, and it wouldn't be long before Rivki knew the ropes just like the rest of them.

Sarah shut off the dryer, and the motor belched a final wheeze. Fluffing up her closecropped hair, she sighed and placed a wig at her head. The nylon tresses were ebony atop long, falling past Sarah Libba's slender shoulders. She was a pretty woman with wide brown eyes that lit UP a round, friendly face. And short, not more than fivefeet, with a shin figure that belied the fact that she'd borne four children. Meticulous in dress and habit, she worked methodically, combing and styling the artificial black strands.

"Here," Rina said. "Let me help you with the back."

Sarah smiled. "Know what inspired me to buy this shaytel?"

Rina shook her head.

"Your hair, Rina, , said Sarah. "It's getting so long."

"I know. Chana's already mentioned it to me."

"Are you going to cut it?"


"Not too short I hope."

Rina shrugged. Her hair was one of her best features. Her mother had raised a commotion when she'd announced her plans to cover it after marriage. Of all the religious obligations that Rina had decided to take on, the covering of her hair was the one that displeased her mother the most. But she forged ahead over her mother's protests, dipped her hair short, and hid it under a wig or scarf. Now, of course, the point was moot.

Working quickly and with self-assurance, Rina turned the wig into a fashionable style. Sarah Libba craned her neck to see the back in the mirror, then smiled.

"It's lovely" she said, patting Rina's hand.

"I've got a lot to work with," said Rina. "It's a good shaytel."

"It should be," Sarah said. "It cost nearly three hundred dollars, and that's for only twenty percent human hair."

"You'd never know."

The other woman frowned.

"Don't cut your hair short, Rina, despite what Chana tells you. She has a load of advice for everyone but herself. We had the family over for Shabbos and her kids were monsters. They broke Chaim's Transformer, and do you think she offered a word of apology?"

"Nothing, huh."

"Nothing! The boys are vilde chayas, and the girls aren't much better. For someone who runs everyone else's life, she sure doesn't do too well with her own."

Rina said nothing. She wasn't much of a gossip, not only because of the strict prohibitions against it, but because she found it personally distasteful. She preferred to keep her opinions to herself.

Sarah didn't prolong the one-way conversation. She stood up, walked over to the fulllength mirror, and preened.

"This time alone is my only respite," she said. "It makes me feel human again."

Rina nodded sympathetically.

"The kids will probably all be up when I get home," the tiny woman sighed. "And Zvi is learning late tonight. . . . I think I'll walk home very slowly. Enjoy the fresh air."

"That's a good idea," Rina said, smiling.

Sarah trudged to the door, turned the knob, straightened her stance, and left.

Alone at last, Rina. stood up, stretched, and glanced at her watch again. Her own boys were still at the Computer Club. Steve would walk them home to a waiting baby-sitter so there was no need to rush. She could take her time. Removing her shoes she rubbed her feet, slipped them into knitted socks and shuffled along the gleaming white tile. Loaded down with a bucket full of soapy water, a handful of rags, and a pail of supplies, she entered the hallway leading to the two bathrooms.

The first one had been used by Sarah Libba, who'd left it neat and orderly. The towels and sheet were compulsively folded upon the tiled counter, the bath mat draped over the rim of the bathtub, and care had been taken to remove the hairs from the comb and brush.

Rina quickly went to work, scrubbing the floor, tub, wash basin, and shower. She refilled the soap containers, the Q-tips holder, the cotton ball dispenser, recapped the toothpaste, and placed the comb in a vial of disinfectant.

Ritual Bath. Copyright © by Faye Kellerman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Faye Kellerman lives with her husband, New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Kellerman, in Los Angeles, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Brief Biography

Beverly Hills, California
Date of Birth:
July 31, 1952
Place of Birth:
St. Louis, Missouri
B.A. in Mathematics, 1974; D.D.A., 1978

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The Ritual Bath (Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus Series #1) 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 522 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up 'Sanctuary' and was mesmerized immediately, however, before I got very far, my husband's daughter asked if I had read the series leading up to this title. I told her I just picked this title randomly - well let me tell you - she had every Rina/Peter novel starting with 'Ritual Bath' and lent every one of them to me. I started in order with Ritual Bath which really helps you understand this relationship (my husband's Jewish, I'm not). Ms. Kellerman has really blended mystery with love flawlessly. You will not rest until you have read every single title in order and impatiently wait for the next. Enjoy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a book that I enjoyed quite a bit; it was interesting to learn a lot about "religious" jews. The mystery and romance were good. too.
Jaycee Holmes More than 1 year ago
I consider this an easy read that i enjoyed. But this novel is not one to recommend to those who are not frequent readers. Though, i loved learning about Judaism I found it difficult to create emotional attachments to the characters. I also did not understand the author's choice for the mivkah rapist. Here is to hoping the sequel is better.
Rietta More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this on my new Nook Color. It was a great deal and I am ready to read the next in the series. I was not really familiar with the Jews tradition or the Yeddish language, but the 'lookup' feature on the Nook really helped out. I don't know what I would have done if I didn't have it; it made understanding the book much easier. Loved it, loved the way it developed for the future - I can't wait to see how Peter and Rina hook up.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read some of the later novels about the same pair - the detective Peter Decker and the widow Rina Lazarus. This is an excellent introduction into the lives of this pair - their backgrounds and the fascinating and illuminating story line concerning the Orthodox Jewish religion and practices. You won't be sorry - this novel will make you want to continue with the series.
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bookworm52 More than 1 year ago
Another great Faye Kellerman book. A must read if you have read any of her other books. Keep them coming Faye!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice read surprise ending
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Rina Lazarus mysteries are interesting, well-written, and offer just the right amount of background on Judaism.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read many of the books in this series and love the relationship differences between characters. The characters are so well written they could be family or neighbors.
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mph12 More than 1 year ago
I've read several of the more recent books in this series so I was anxious to read the first. I definitely wasn't disappointed. This is a great series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love finding a bunch of characters that I care about and then reading every book available about those characters. This is the start of a series I know I am going to enjoy reading. I was engaged from the first couple of pages (and I have a short attention span, so it's hard to grab me at all much less right away) and I read this book faster than any in the last year because I really wanted to find out what happened to Peter and Rina.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book really intrigued me and I read it over just a couple of days! I have always been curious about judaism and this was probably the most unique setting for a detective series. Detective Decker meets Rina a religious jewish woman who has some guts to help a friend who was raped outside the bath used for women to purify themselves. Both her and Decker are attracted to each other, but she loves her way of life as a jew and could never be with a goy(non jew) you learn a lot of jewish/yiddish words and meanings in this book. Det.Decker and Rina work together trying to solve this rape and murder that occur in "Jewish town" where a cluster of 60 families,rabbi's and schools for Jewish people live in a somewhat gated community. This small somewhat sheltered haven has been attacked in the most brutal ways. As the story evolves Decker and Rina draw closer as the rapist zones in on Rina. Well told story with well developed characters that you feel like you really know with a lot of plot twists that keep you guessing. I am planning on reading the 2nd book in this series right away!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An "inteersting read", but not one of the better novels by Kellerman. A too complicated plot is interrupted too much and too many times by references back to exploits of her protagonists in her earlier works, but she does keep her readers guessing "who done it".
britcat2 More than 1 year ago
The is the first of the series, and sets the stage for Peter and Rina's relationship. I really enjoy this series, the characters all grow and develop. Good mysteries too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Can't wait to read the rest of the series.