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Shoham, Liad - 'Lineup' (translated by Sara Kitai)
Paperback: 320 pages (Apr. 2014) Publisher: Scribe ISBN: 1922247367

He watched Nevo. His gut told him he was the rapist. After twenty years on the job, he could trust his gut.

Tel Aviv, Israel. The old woman watches the street through her night-vision binoculars - a little treat she bought herself that she hasn't told the family about. Later she hears a noise in the yard and uses them to look out of the bathroom window. Unbelievable. A couple are doing it down there. No. A woman is being raped. The old woman freezes. She must call the police. But the man twists his head to look up and she steps back with her heart racing. Better not. Too old to do anything, too vulnerable. Her heart. The shattered rape victim makes it back into her own apartment. She stands under the scalding water of the shower and scrubs herself. Then she showers and scrubs again. And again.
Three weeks later Yaron Regev, father of the raped girl, sits in his car watching her apartment. He has been doing this night after night. Keeping her safe. He is fighting off sleep when a man passes the car - a man fitting his daughter's description of her attacker. He watches the guy duck down between two cars then pop up again. A young woman is walking down the street. Yaron Regev's blood boils. He is going to try it again. Slowly and quietly Yaron gets out of his car. The guy slips down a side street and Yaron follows him.
In his office Inspector Eli Nachum broods about the rape case. Weeks with no result. His phone rings and he picks it up. Yaron Regev, the girl's father. He is sobbing that he has found his daughter's rapist.
And Ziv Nevo lies on his bed in the crummy apartment and thinks about the guy who followed him. Ziv gave him the slip but he must be more careful. Nothing is going right these days. He thinks about his little boy. Ziv should have seen him this weekend only his ex-wife took him off to her parents... There is a screech of tyres in the street and car doors slam. Ziv bolts out of his apartment and up the stairs. But nothing does go right these days. Soon he is lying face-down on the roof of the apartment block, a cop's foot on his back, his tears wetting the concrete.

Liad Shoham is a practising commercial lawyer who lives in Tel Aviv and he is Israel's top crime writer. LINEUP is his fifth book but the first to be translated into English and Shoham has complimented Sara Kitai's translation in several interviews. The story starts with a rape and the hunt for the rapist by police, a local crime reporter and the victim's father. In this multi-viewpoint narrative we also get to know the suspect and there is no doubt that he has done something criminal. But is it the rape? And if not him, then who? When a second, more violent, rape is discovered, events accelerate. The suspect is on the run again and - as if he doesn't have enough problems - the Israeli Mafia has joined the chase.

Shoham says that he was influenced by the TV series The Wire in choosing to tell the story from the viewpoint of several characters. His plotting is clever and brisk with a pace that builds the tension well as the story twists and turns to an exciting finish. But there are quite a few characters involved in this fast, multi-stranded approach and whilst their thoughts and views are clearly explained, their individualities are not always so well established. Sometimes I had to pause to recall "who was who" when they popped up to take over the storyline.

Shoham is very funny on why it is hard to write crime thrillers in Israel:
It's a small place - where would the suspect run?
Everyone knows everyone - the neighbours would uncover the suspect-in-hiding before the police.
"The family" - you need whole chapters about what the family thinks before you can write what the character thinks.
Funny and probably very true judging by LINEUP. It may even explain the "duty v. self-interest v. guilt" conflicts present in most of the characters - so much so that I could have wished a touch of Shoham's own humour and sense of perspective for some of them.

Nevertheless I followed Ziv Nevo's flight and plight with increasing involvement and taut nerves. And despite my niggles I would indeed like to know what happens to one or two of the characters afterwards. Writing crime novels in Israel may be hard but Liad Shoham seems to know how to set about it.

Lynn Harvey, England
May 2014

Lynn blogs at
Little Grey Doll.

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 11/05/2014 15:05