It is 1977(cf. page 132), christmas, and four months have passed since the end of the first book, “The Ritual Bath“. LAPD detective Pete Decker is still seeing his love-interest, orthodox Jew Rina Lazarus, and so he goes camping with the young widow’s two sons, Sammy and Jake. When 8 ½ year-old Sammy strolls off on his own, he stumbles upon two burnt corpses – and thus, Decker into his next case. Forensic odontology will help to identify one of the young women as a teenager who went missing some three months ago, but what about the other body? What linked the two and what has happened to them? This is the second book in Faye Kellerman’s series around Decker and Lazarus and although the books might in general be read separately and on their own, this one starts off with an information that I consider a spoiler on Pete, as the first book would only reveal it at a later stage.
As in “The Ritual Bath“, Pete will have his colleagues Marge Dunn and Mike Hollander by his side and have to delve deep into the less affluent areas of his hometown Los Angeles. The series is a mystery story not a thriller, and you will accompany the detectives along rather than be capable to deduce the murderer from the information yourself. Same as Pete, of course, you may use your gut feeling… Kellerman does not write overly ‘graphic‘, but the cops will have to look at some explicit photos, hit upon some hints of snuff porn, see weapons put to usage, and discuss matters in between them in a language probably not suitable for their respective moms – for the lovers of the likes of Cody McFadyen, that’s kindergarten stuff, but we do not talk Agatha Christie here.
Again, the author links the crime story with the personal development between Pete and Rina, who fell in love during the first story, and the problems this causes concerning the fact Rina is living as an orthodox jew: neither would she simply start off an relationship, nor would she consider marriage to a husband not sharing her religious believes. Peter picks off where the first book ended, so he is still studying the Chumash, the Jewish bible, learning Hebrew and Yiddish; but more than once, this will bring him to his limits like when overly attentive friends try to ensure proper behaviour, when families will interfere, or when religious demands meet human desires. That is, as with the predecessor, highly insightful; so you may read your way through the traditional shabbos and really get to learn and understand the rituals. The book’s title derives from the end of the prayer to mark the conclusion of Sabbath “Baruch atah Adonai hamadvil beyn kodesh lechol =
Blessed art thou, Oh Lord, who hast made a distinction between sacred and profane“ p 130
In this book, the rituals, the high spiritual and personal demands, and the slow progress in the investigation will soon overexhaust the detective – and I admit that some of his frustration rubs off, especially when the case‘s end will somehow fade away in contrast to his love matters. I still like the non-kitsh love affair and how religious matters are being portrayed – solid 4 stars out of 5.