If you want to just try the series, go for book no 1 (The Ritual Bath) and this, no 4, no 4 being for me the slightly better of the two, but no 1 should be needed to understand the whole context.
Newlyweds Peter Decker and his wife Rina, formerly Lazarus, spend an unusual honeymoon – visiting Rina’s ex-parents-in-law: with the death of Rina’s first husband from brain cancer, they lost their son, now their grandsons Sammy and Yonkie will be raised by Rina with Pete. So the LAPD-cop wants to help Rina make them feel more comfortable, still feeling a lot out of place in the strictly jewish-orthodox enviroment in New York, standing out despite his own decision for Judaism, though for a more moderate form. Too many ghosts for the Lazarus family, leave alone the very tiny housing conditions, especially with a large man like him. It is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year’s celebration, with Yom Kippur to come, the Day of Atonement, namegiver to the book’s title. And as if this were not tricky enough, Pete had not known that the friends to come over to the Lazarus‘ home would open a pandora’s box he had avoided ever so long. And then, the group comes to realize a troubled teenage boy is missing. Pete goes into cop-mode.
There are so many things I just love about this book. There is a decent enough crime story – sometimes you get to read a story about good kids doing stupid stuff and just do not get to understand why. Here, author Kellerman clevery describes how the very protected and isolated upbringing of the young boy made him ever so much more vulnerable. Of course, the reader will get a gripping hunt – including how much footwork is included in police investigations. There even are some psycho thriller portions with the involvement of some rather gory details and very nasty crimes. And the reader will learn a lot more about Pete Decker, see him under real pressure.
Kellerman, herself orthodox according to Wikipedia, has cop Decker be the one to evaluate and ponder religious matters. He is new to living by religious laws and thus more given to criticism. So when he escapes the claustrophobic situation at the Lazarus‘ home, his thoughts are: „Just a hundred years ago, hundreds of Jews had poured into America, working ninety hours a week for a better life, for a chance to get out of the ghetto. But for some, so much freedom had seemed too frightening.
Solution: Why not bring the ghetto into America?
And Rina chose this voluntarily.“ p. 21
The book gives you a wonderful insight again into religious rituals, this time the aforementioned holy days, not without backing this up with the differences for the various religous groups and some further details. I really enjoy if a crime story goes deeper and gives you some more more of a grip to matters of society and had dearly missed that type of information in book no 3. Kellerman intertwines the purpose of Yom Kippur wonderfully and tightly with the events around the disappearance, so no way of one being just the stooge for the other. To the protagonists, religion and everyday activity, it’s all linked. To the story, each carries the other along, without lecturing. And not to forget the irony behind some of the events, like when Pete tries to talk his wife out of wishing to possess a gun for self defence:
Peter: “If you sell the gun.“
„Peter, it should be my decision, not yours.“
„You’re my wife! According to Jewish law, I bought you.“
Rina glared at him: „I hate when you use religion to prove a point.“ p 158 Not the only time when Peter really messes up badly…