Thursday, February 4, 2010
The Bethlehem Road Murder by Batya Gur
The body of a beautiful young woman is found during the preparations for renovations of an formally abandoned house. At the scene, Inspector Ohayon learns the discovery of the body was made by a former lover. Not only is the Inspector tackling a tough case he is also reconnecting with his past. Set against the backdrop of the Al-Aqsa Intifada and the ghosts of kidnapped Yemenite children, Gur weaves an intricate story involving multi-ethnic neighborhoods, racial tension and secrets.
Gur captures the tight knit community feeling of a close neighborhood. The petty squabbles, the gossiping, the desolation of a place hostile to outsiders. However there were several features of the book I found troublesome. The writing is verbose. I see no purpose in spending nineteen pages to express an idea that could have been amply covered by two. It only detracts from the story. Not only are the character’s dispositions longwinded but there are are also points where this copious writing slows the action of the story almost to the point the reader wants to give up. For example Ohayon and his love interest spend hours discussing the philosophy of love, when everyone else connected to the case is hard at work. Almost as big a problem for me are the characters. The supporting characters are all more forceful and over power Inspector Ohayon. Having finished the book, it is not Inspector Ohayon that stands out in the memory. The story is also bogged down by the translation. Whilst I appreciate the difficulty of translating the work into English, the dialogue is stilted. Often characters use the exact same wording to describe an event. Also with the overuse of pronouns, it can be hard to keep up with who is being referred to. With a better translation and a hundred page edit, it would be an enjoyable read. As it stands I wish I had those three hours back.