Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Ritual Bath

This is another mystery. This one was interesting to me because of the way it treated a religious community. The plot revolves around a crime in yeshiva community. A group of very orthodox Jews who have gathered together to be apart from the rest of the world. They are not completely isolated, they go to the grocery store and such, but in gathering together they can live their religion more easily and more fully.
This was definitely more complex and thoughtful than your standard mystery. The interactions of the characters were full of the tensions that make a character driven novel good. Especially because the tensions come from such varied sources. The Jews are naturally suspicious of any outsider, then they are worried about the crime and that it might be one of their own. Then the Gentile detective is very attracted to the central witness and so the tension of attractions outside of the faith are involved too.
I can see from the dedication that the author is writing from experience. I don't know if she has lived in such communities, but she is obviously Jewish and tends toward a more orthodox approach.
It is nice to read books where religion is written about with such support and sympathy. The believers are not mystics and weird or kooky, just religious, that is how they lived their lives. I liked this one.
One outside thing that cracked me up was noticing that whoever gave these books to my neighbor counted the "S word", seven times in the book. In a book about rape and murder it seemed a little trivial to worry about that. I object to a lot of swearing, and especially the "F word" will turn me off of a book pretty quick, but that little note at the beginning of the book made me laugh.

The Ritual Bath. Faye Kellerman. Avon Fiction. 1986

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