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Stone, Joel - 'The Jerusalem File'
Paperback: 140 pages (Mar. 2009) Publisher: Europa Editions ISBN: 1933372656

In this short hard-hitting novel, Levin a retired divorcÚ who worked in the security service is asked by an acquaintance, Kaye, a mathematics professor, to follow his beautiful wife Deborah. Kaye, a jealous sexually obsessed husband, is convinced Deborah is having an affair with the younger, art historian Weiss. Levin follows the pair through Jerusalem, a city in conflict between Jew and Arab, secular and religious, to their love nest and confirms that they are lovers. Then Weiss is killed on a lonely desert road on his way to Jaffa, apparently a victim of a random terrorist attack. But then Deborah seeks out the lonely Levin and asks him to investigate the murder claiming to be a cousin of Weiss and naming her husband as a prime suspect. Levin becomes totally infatuated with Deborah's seemingly unattainable beauty and he wanders the city trying to keep the investigation going in order to see more of the younger woman.

This is a brilliant, well written, short novel that, in a too brief 140 pages, deals with the multiple tragedies of loneliness and sexual obsession as well as two peoples struggling for one small country, fear of death at the hands of suicide bombers, and memories of Auschwitz.

The terrorist act. The patient gunman. The zooming car bomber. The silent guy wearing the explosive vest. Levin, for better or worse, could see it from their point of view. They used what they had, the way anyone would.

It is a bleak story lightened by an ironic Jewish humour that makes you laugh and cry on the same page.

Levin and Deborah meet in the Tower of David Museum:

"Have you been here before?" she asked him.
"A few times. And you?"
"My first."
"King David was never here either. In fact, according to some scholars, there may never have been a King David."
"You can't kid me," said Deborah Kaye. "I've had martinis in his hotel."

I found it incredible that this excellent book makes such a thought provoking analysis of so many difficult problems in so few pages.

Joel Stone, who died in 2007, was born in Brooklyn, graduated from Princeton University, and was a Fulbright Scholar at the Sorbonne. His first novel published in 1992 was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Norman Price, England
June 2009

Norman blogs at
Crime Scraps.

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

last updated 14/06/2009 13:53