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Bethlehem Road Murder: A Michael Ohayon Mystery    by Batya Gur order for
Bethlehem Road Murder
by Batya Gur
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Bethlehem Road Murder is set in Jerusalem. It's Batya Gur's fifth novel. If her previous four are as compelling as this one, they are definitely worth a read. The location of the action is as much a character as the players we meet in the course of the story. Gur lives in Jerusalem and so speaks knowledgeably of the area. The neighborhood where the action plays out is a closed one that gives us a look at the whole Isreali experience in a microcosm. A fascinating look, to be sure, and one that gave me a new slant on the aggressions between Israel and Palestine.

The body of a young woman whose face has been horribly mutilated is found on the roof of a building that is to be renovated into apartments. It is ultimately revealed that the body is that of a woman who lived nearby - an exceedingly beautiful woman. Now we are invited into the neighborhood to discover the relationships that existed amongst the occupants of the houses. Chief Superintendent Michael Ohayon arrives on the scene to find not only the crime but an old love whose memory has haunted him over the years. There is a wildly out-of-place scene between Ohayon and his past love which doesn't further the story at all but does define the roles men and women play in the age-old mating game. Interesting. Gur has created a young child who plays an important part in the solution of the crime - Neesa is as real to the reader as the little girl next door. We all know or knew someone just like her.

The book explores a part of history, of which I was unaware - the kidnapping of Yemenite children in the 1950s. The unconscionable things we humans do to each other in the guise of doing good works! Unfathomable. Bethlehem Road Murder is an exciting book that entices the reader to keep turning its pages. Good mystery. Good characters. Good setting. Good book.

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