Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Murder in Jerusalem: Batya Gur

This is the final book in the Michael Ohayon series by Batya Gur, and was published posthumously. There are six books in the series and each book takes place in a particular environment; in this book it is a TV station in Jerusalem, and a woman's body in found in the wardrobe and prop warehouse. The dead woman is a set-designer; she and many of the staff at Israel Television have worked together for years, and the relationships are complex. Chief Superintendent Ohayon works with his staff to determine who the murderer is, as more deaths occur.


The main attractions of this series of mysteries are the setting in Israel and Michael Ohayon's complex character. In this book we get a lot of information about various issues in Israel, but Ohayon is a less prominent and interesting character in this one. Some may enjoy this book for the setting in a television studio. There are a lot of characters, both at the TV station and working on the police investigation, which can get confusing.

This is definitely more of a psychological mystery than a fast-paced thriller, which is true with all of the books in the series. I enjoyed the first books in the series, but the latter books were less compelling, for varied reasons. Having said that, I am glad I had this last visit with Chief Superintendent Michael Ohayon and his coworkers as they solve the mystery.

I would recommend this book to those who like slowly-paced, thoughtful literary mysteries, and those who want to learn more about Israel (and in particular in this book, various views on Zionism) or those who are interested in the TV studio setting. But mainly, my goal here is to suggest that you try some of the other mysteries by Batya Gur first.

I loved the first three books in the series. Saturday Morning Murder: A Psychoanalytic Case (1992) begins with a death at the Jerusalem Psychoanalytic Institute. In Literary Murder: A Critical Case (1993), the background is the academic setting of Hebrew University and the victim is a professor of literature and a poet. Murder on a Kibbutz: A Communal Case (1994) is set on a kibbutz and it is a toss up between this one and Literary Murder as to which is my favorite. I still have a copy of Literary Murder and I plan to re-read it someday.

I have to share with you these thoughts from a review on Murder on a Kibbutz, at Eric Pallant's blog:
Great mysteries also teach you something about a time or location you otherwise couldn’t know about, and very few mystery writers are better than Israel’s Batya Gur. In Murder on a Kibbutz her detective Michael Ohayan is called upon to investigate the murder of a kibbutznik, which in Israel is exceptionally rare. Gur peels away the layers of the onion that make up a family-like group of 300 people who care about one another, share everything, and despise one another as only family members can. What I can say, having lived on an Israeli kibbutz, is that every page of description is microscopically accurate, the characters are almost too real to be fictional, and the mystery is hard to solve.
The only book in the series that I did not care for was Murder Duet: A Musical Case (1999). I am sure many readers would love the setting in the world of classical music, but I was bothered by the fact that Ohayon was personally involved in the case and continued to work on it. The fifth book, Bethlehem Road Murder (2004), concerns a murder in an insular neighborhood in Jerusalem, and explores sociological and political issues in Israel more than previous books in the series.

A review of this book at Mystery Tribune includes this biography of the author:
Batya Gur (January 1947 – May 2005) was an Israeli writer with the specialty in detective fiction, obviously set in Israel. She was born in Tel Aviv in 1947 to parents who survived the Holocaust. She earned a master’s degree in Hebrew literature from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Before writing her first detective novel at the age of 39, she taught literature in high school. Gur was also a literary critic for Haaretz newspaper. She died of cancer at the age of 57.

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Publisher:   HarperCollins, 2006
Length:       388 pages
Format:       Hardcover
Series:        Michael Ohayon, #4
Translated by:  Evan Fallenberg
Setting:       Jerusalem
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:       Purchased at Planned Parenthood book sale, 2009.




18 comments:

  1. Sometimes when we read some mysteries and they sound superficial. Perhaps this is the reason for a general conception but certainly biased that crime fictions are mere pulp fiction. I always love to read mysteries which have depth and also round characters. Thanks for suggesting these series.

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    1. These mysteries definitely have depth, Shalet. It is a worthwhile series to read.

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  2. I know someone who will like this series.
    Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
    Questiom: when did you read all the books in the series? Recenty or over the years?

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    1. I read the first five books in the series in 2008 and 2009, Nancy, so fairly recently.

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  3. This sounds like a really interesting series, Tracy. The setting appeals to me already, and I do like complex characters when they're not contrived. I need to look into this...

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    1. Definitely interesting, Margot, and the plots are always complex. But more thought and investigation than action. Which is fine.

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  4. You haven't tempted me with this author or series. Not one I have heard of previously so thanks.

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    1. I am not surprised that you are not tempted, Col. Not your type of preferred reading.

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  5. The TV studio setting in one that would draw me in, certainly, though sounds like I would still go for the first to start with! Thanks Tracy :)

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    1. Definitely better to start with the first one, Sergio. In earlier books there is more of Ohayon's personal life included, although not to excess, and the reader gets to know him better.

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  6. Sounds very intriguing as a whole, Tracy. A series set in Israel. I know practically nothing about the setting except the more obvious things one picks up in newspapers and such. I'm adding the author to my TBR list.

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    1. I don't know much about Israel either, Yvette, and that made these books very interesting. This is an author worth trying.

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  7. Tracy, I don't think I have ever read a series set in Israel though I have read about Jewish characters in novels set elsewhere. I like the very Israel-centric character of these novels, including that of Michael Ohayon. Thanks for writing about this series.

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    1. I have at least one other series set in Israel, Prashant, and now I am eager to try that one also.

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  8. You've stirred my interest up, Tracy. Batya Gur is a new name to me, but I'm curious now. Don't know much about Israel, either, other than what I've gotten from several post 9-11 novels. This series might be just my cup of tea.

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    1. Israel is definitely interesting to read about, Mathew, and it cannot hurt to try one of the books.

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  9. OK, you have convinced me I need to try this series. I have just ordered the first one...

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    1. I do hope you like it, Moira. The books have a lot to offer, and they are different, more literary and serious.

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