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Murder in Jerusalem: A Michael Ohayon Mystery

Murder in Jerusalem: A Michael Ohayon Mystery

3.5 2
by Batya Gur

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Modern Israel is a place filled with contradictions: the beautiful landscape often rife with human conflict; the tranquil and the peaceful in constant struggle with terrible destruction; and amazing human love and kindness set against a backdrop of civil strife. Through the eyes of a writer like Batya Gur and her finest creation, Chief Superintendent Michael Ohayon


Modern Israel is a place filled with contradictions: the beautiful landscape often rife with human conflict; the tranquil and the peaceful in constant struggle with terrible destruction; and amazing human love and kindness set against a backdrop of civil strife. Through the eyes of a writer like Batya Gur and her finest creation, Chief Superintendent Michael Ohayon, these complexities are treated with an intimate familiarity and rare depth of understanding.

When a woman's body is discovered in the wardrobe warehouses of Israel Television, the brooding Ohayon embarks on a tangled and bloody trail of detection through the corridors and studios of Israel's official television station and, especially, through the relations, fears, loves, and courage of the people who make the station what it is. It is a journey that brings into question the very ideals upon which Ohayon -- and indeed the entire nation -- was raised, ideals that may have led to terrible crimes.

Chief Superintendent Ohayon has spent his career surrounded by perplexing and horrific cases, but perhaps nothing disturbs him more deeply than what this mysterious woman's murder reveals. For the media, often at the center of the Israeli consciousness -- a place where political tensions; hostility; corruption; and the ethnic, social, and religious divisions that shake the nation come together -- may indeed be at the root of an unspeakable evil.

Murder in Jerusalem is the crowning achievement of a magnificent career, this final installment in the Michael Ohayon series a wonderful parting gift from the incomparable Batya Gur -- one last fascinating visit to an always tumultuous land, in the company of a writer and a detective so many devoted readers have loved so well.

Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
Politics, religion and sex are the divisive forces in Murder in Jerusalem, a biting cultural exposé (in Evan Fallenberg’s sharp-toothed translation) that takes place in 1997 in the offices and production studios of the state-sponsored television station. Between the chaos of the news operation and the bloated egos of the staff, Ohayon doesn’t know where to begin his investigation of the death of the set designer on a film production of S.Y. Agnon’s novella “Iddo and Eynam.” But in his patient way, he methodically sifts through the professional hostilities and personal animosities and comes to a compassionate understanding of the tragic and, in the end, dehumanizing compromises people make for the sake of their ideals.
— The New York Times
Alana Newhouse
Gur, who died of cancer last year at age 57, has been credited with single-handedly generating the crime-fiction genre in Israeli literature. She did more than that. As proved again in her posthumously published final novel, Murder in Jerusalem, Gur did not simply create characters who investigated crimes; she created crimes through which her characters could investigate the mysteries at the heart of her country.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Gur's tremendous literary gifts are on full display in her sixth contemporary Israeli mystery to feature the understated but insightful Sephardic detective, Insp. Michael Ohayon (after 2005's Bethlehem Road Murder). The death of set designer Tirzah Rubin, found beneath a fallen pillar on the set of a film adaptation of S.Y. Agnon's Iddo and Eynam, appears to be an accident, but later evidence that it was murder brings Ohayon and his team into the swirl of personalities and politics that make up the national TV station, Channel One. When a witness to Tirzah's final moments also dies, from an overdose of heart medicine while hospitalized, the pressure on Ohayon intensifies. Once again, Gur uses a classic whodunit plot to explore human passions and insecurities with a sophistication equal to that of P.D. James and other better known authors of psychological crime fiction. The concluding moral dilemma Ohayon faces would have been fascinating to follow in future inquiries that will, alas, go unwritten, as Gur died in 2005. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal

Adult/High School
Tirzah Rubin, set designer for Israeli television, is found dead under a fallen marble pillar. Michael Ohayon, the quiet, introspective Chief Superintendent of the Israeli police, arrives on the scene to begin an investigation of what first appears to be an accident and soon becomes a crime. When the killing is followed by a second and then a third death at the studio, Ohayon and his staff delve further into the deeply intertwined lives of the victims and the other major players in this closely knit television family. Was the murderer's motive love, politics, or something else? The story is rich in the culture of modern-day Israel and gives a vivid depiction of the behind-the-scenes drama of a television station, including a masterfully written scene depicting the hour before airtime. The characters are well fleshed out, though American teens might find the Israeli names initially distracting. However, young adults will soon be drawn into the love entanglements, the multiple mysteries, and the everyday lives of people in a war-torn country so often in the news. Teachers of world history will want to include this title on reading lists of fiction about current world issues, and English teachers can add it to the list of accessible books by foreign authors.
—Ellen BellCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
Gur probes the Byzantine world of Israeli broadcasting in this posthumous tale of sex, lies and murder. Though cost overruns can't halt Benny Meyuhas's film adaptation of S.Y. Agnon's Iddo and Eynam, a prestige production bankrolled by an unnamed American, it's threatened by the death of set-designer Tirzah Rubin, crushed beneath a marble-pillar prop. Tirzah was not only loved by the whole Israel Television staff, from director Shimshon Zadik on down, she was both Benny's live-in companion and the wife of womanizing investigative reporter Arye Rubin. As Zadik's secretary, Aviva, pouts and the newsroom secretary-and Rubin's former lover-scowls, Inspector Eli Bachar questions staffers about what he regards as Tirzah's accidental death until Matty Cohen, head of production, suffers a fatal heart attack while being questioned at Jerusalem police headquarters. This second death brings Chief Superintendent Michael Ohayon (Bethlehem Road Murder, 2004, etc.) to Israel Television's studio. While veteran reporter Danny Benizri covers the kidnapping of the minister of social affairs by striking workers at the Hulit factory and an up-and-comer named Natasha ends her affair with news director Hefetz and begins looking into Chief Rabbi Elharizi's strange trips to Canada, Ohayon explores the dark side of an organization dedicated to bringing the truth to light. Gur's swan song is overwrought and overplotted, but it gives a uniquely Israeli take on the paradox of the sacred and profane in the Holy Land.
New York Times Book Review
“[A] biting cultural expose”

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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Michael Ohayon Series , #6
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Murder in Jerusalem

A Michael Ohayon Mystery
By Batya Gur

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Batya Gur
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060852933

Chapter One

Michael Ohayon laid A Suitable Boy, the heavy volume in which he had been immersed for weeks, especially the past two, during his vacation, at the foot of his bed. How was it possible to write a novel like this and at the same time live one's life? How suddenly familiar and true were the claims voiced by many women in his life, claims he had heard often enough from his only son as well, about the manner in which he lost himself in his work, how there was no approaching him while he was on a case. To create and write about some reality or to investigate it seemed suddenly to him like the very same effort, the very same anxiety.

A sudden noise cut his thoughts short. He hurried to the hallway, and from there to the bathroom. He had left the cabinet door under the sink open so that the dampness there would not grow moldy. The bucket he had placed under the sink had overturned, as if a cat had passed by. But no cat had passed by. The windows were shut and the blinds were closed and rain was pounding and a puddle of dirty water was gathering by the front door. There was no explanation for the overturned bucket. "The butterfly effect," Tzilla would say had she witnessed the scene, which would becertain to irritate Balilty: "Effects again?" he would exclaim. "Butterflies again? Aren't you fed up with all that yet? What's the matter, aren't there any other explanations in the world? Let's see you, for once, just say 'I don't know'!" Michael returned to his bedroom and glanced at the full packet of cigarettes lying next to the reading lamp on the small night table. He had not smoked the whole day. The first week of his vacation he had spent counting and rationing. Each day he had smoked two fewer cigarettes than the day before. Later, when he understood that he would need twenty days in order to quit smoking entirely while he had at his disposal only one last week to make his abstinence a fait accompli, he had stopped smoking all at once. Five days had passed since his last cigarette. Perhaps that was why he was unable to fall asleep. And now the overturned bucket had jolted him into wakefulness. He would return to his book, that would be best. One thing he could say about this book for sure was that its wonderful collection of characters and historical events managed, occasionally, to divert his attention from smoking.

At the very moment he managed to settle into just the right position and had nearly immersed himself in the book again, the telephone rang.

Every work of art must be the result of overcoming obstacles; the more meaningful its execution is, the harder the obstacles seem to be, as if the creator has been put to the test against the very right that was granted him -- or that he took for himself -- to fulfill his own dream. Sometimes it even seems possible to think of obstacles and difficulties as the motivating force behind such creativity; in defiance, spiteful, as it were, but without which . . . Benny Meyuhas shook himself free of these musings, looking first at the monitor and then at Schreiber, the only cameraman he was willing to work with on this film. Schreiber's smooth, large, white face was shining when he lifted his head from the camera lens. Benny Meyuhas touched his shoulders and moved him gently aside in order to get a peek through the lens, and then he too saw the figure standing at the edge of the roof, near the railing, holding the hem of her white gown in her hand, her drawn and pale face turned to the dark sky. He lifted his head and pointed at the moon.

Rain had fallen all week, especially at night, and even though the weather forecasters had noted repeatedly that these rains were beneficial, welcome, appearing now in mid-December as the harbinger of a wonderful winter, Benny Meyuhas was beside himself; it seemed to him that the head of the Production Department himself had ordered this rain in order to prevent him from the night filming of Iddo and Eynam, or, as he put it, "to finish up already with that thing that's eaten up our entire budget for Israeli drama." Just when Benny had lost all hope of completing these last scenes, which were being filmed in secret, if not absolutely underground due to the threat -- which no crew member had actually mentioned but everyone knew -- that Matty Cohen, head of production, could at any moment appear on the set and put a stop to the whole project, the rain suddenly let up and the moon appeared, as if it had consented to perform its role and cast light on the path of Gemullah the somnambulist, the heroine of Agnon's story, as she sleepwalked at the edge of the roof and sang songs from her childhood.

As a matter of fact, just then on that very night as the rain stopped and the moon appeared, Matty Cohen was on his way to the set, and at ten minutes to midnight was standing on the second-story catwalk in the narrow, open hallway above the storerooms, very near the doorway that led to the roof. The people on the roof, however, did not know this; no one had seen him pass by. As large and heavy as he was, his footsteps were always light and quick; he mounted the narrow metal steps quietly and passed by scenery and pillars illuminated by dim light from naked bulbs that created a mix of darkness and shadows. Matty Cohen stopped there, on the catwalk, and peered below to the long, narrow, darkened hallway on whose walls leaned pieces of scenery, their shadows climbing to the corners of the ceiling. Someone unfamiliar with the place -- a child, a . . .


Excerpted from Murder in Jerusalem by Batya Gur Copyright © 2006 by Batya Gur. 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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Murder in Jerusalem (Michael Ohayon Series #6) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
More than just a police procedural - it's about social and cultural issues. Interesting, engaging and entertaining.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago