2017-05-10 / Columns

New entries await in popular mystery series


Fans of mysteries love to follow their favorite sleuths in new adventures. We gathered recently to catch up with some series updates.

DEBBIE: Author Philip Kerr has released “Prussian Blue,” the newest installment in his Bernie Gunther mystery series, which finds Gunther in 1956, sent by the deputy head of the Stasi to poison English agent Anne French, a character from a prior novel. Gunther is reluctant to carry out his orders and recalls the events of 1939 when he was sent by a high-ranking Nazi to the Bavarian Mountains to investigate a murder. Bernie has one week to crack the case before Hitler arrives in the Alpine retreat for his birthday. The two concurrent stories are full of intrigue.

MINNA: Also taking the reader back to 1939 is the epic novel “Heretics” by Leonardo Padura, translated from Spanish and taking place in Cuba. One of Padura’s favorite recurring characters, Mario Conde, a former Cuban police detective turned private investigator, encounters Elias Kaminsky, who appears on his porch in Havana one night with a story about Cuban Jews and the Holocaust. Combining historical fiction and a detective story, the novel covers the voyage of the St. Louis, 17th Century Amsterdam, and a lost Rembrandt painting.

AMY: Another mystery in translation is “The Man Who Wanted to Know Everything” by Israeli literary scholar D. A. Mishani. His protagonist, Avraham Avraham, is an Israeli police superintendent featured in two previous mysteries. Avraham has a new position: He is now commander of investigations and intelligence. On his first case in this new position, he faces the challenge of teaching his subordinates to look more deeply into the clues in a murder case. At the same time, he faces new stress in his personal life as his Slovenian girlfriend’s parents have doubts about him as a detective and as a match for their daughter. This police procedural offers complex characters and an intriguing case.

DEBBIE: Julia Dahl, author of “Invisible City,” has written another in the series of Rebekah Roberts stories: “Conviction.” The year is 1992 and the community of Crown Heights is at a breaking point. A black family has been brutally murdered in their home at the time of the riots. Their 16-year-old foster son has been convicted and imprisoned, and the case is quickly closed. Fast forward 22 years later and freelance reporter Roberts receives a letter,

“I didn’t do it.” She reopens the case and uncovers some ugly truths within the Hasidic community and within her own family. This is a great mystery that reveals social injustice in our society.

MINNA: Translated from the Swedish, “The Chosen,” by Kristina Ohlsson, has no relationship to the famous Potok book by the same name. In this thriller, two Stockholm police officers are hunting for the killer of a preschool teacher shot in front of parents and children at the Jewish Congregation. Then two Jewish boys go missing on their way to tennis practice. A heavy snowstorm makes crime solving more difficult, but the clues seem to point toward Israel and the Paper Boy, a mysterious, evil folklore figure. This is the fifth book in the Fredrika Bergman series.

AMY: Adam LeBor is a political journalist who writes for “The New York Times” and “The Economist.” He also writes fiction, notably two spy thrillers featuring protagonist Yael Azoulay: “The Geneva Option” (2013) and “The Washington Stratagem” (2015). His latest, the final entry in the Azoulay series, is “The Reykjavik Assignment.” Protagonist Azoulay, a former member of the Israeli Special Forces, handles top-secret negotiations for the United Nations. In this series finale, UN diplomats are being assassinated, and she has just saved the US President from such an attempt. Now she is tasked with mediating a top secret meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland between America and Iran, but many players would like to see these negotiations derailed. Mysteries set in Scandinavia (e.g., “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) are popular, and this one offers descriptions of the beauty of Iceland. With a strong female protagonist and plenty of suspense, this geopolitical thriller delivers.

AMY & MINNA: With this column we sadly bid farewell to Debbie Drachman, who is leaving the Sanders Memorial Library of the Katz JCC to accept a position with the Burlington County Library System. Debbie has been instrumental in the growth of the JCC Library, a treasured resource enjoyed by our community, as well as the success of the annual Festival of Arts, Books, and Culture. We wish Debbie all the best in her new venture. And Debbie—the Roundtable won’t be the same without you!

For more information, contact us: Minna Siegel at Temple Beth Sholom (msiegel@tbsonline.org) and Amy Kaplan at Cong. Beth El (akaplan@bethelsnj.org). 

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