Saturday, May 2, 2020

The Bar Mitzvah Murder

The Bar Mitzvah Murder (2004) by Lee Harris

Christine Bennett's best friend Melanie Gross calls with exciting news. She and her whole family are headed to the Holy Land to celebrate her cousin's bar mitzvah. He's in his 30's or 40's, but had never been very religious until very recently so he didn't feel like he had done it right and wants to do it right and do it BIG now. Gabe is very wealthy and can afford to take his family and pay for what amounts to a fabulous vacation for about forty people. Chris is very excited for her friend and thinks how nice it would be to visit Israel some day. Little does she know...

Chris's husband Jack has recently been promoted (after passing both the bar exam and the lieutenant's exam) and after serving an obligatory stint at a precinct before a final appointment can be made. At the end of that stint he's recalled to the main police offices at One Police Plaza where he'll have an office in the Legal Bureau. He's barely moved in before he receives a summons from the Deputy Commissioner to take on a special assignment in....c'mon, you've guessed it...Israel. US police officers are going to work with the Israeli police to set up a computer database to track criminals wanted by both countries. And it just so happens that the trip will take place at the same time as Melanie and her family will be there. Jack has been given permission to bring Chris and their young son, Eddie along for the trip--and his parents book separately so they can spend time with their grandson. It's going to be a fantastic trip.

But (it's a mystery series and murder's in the title, so you know what's coming)...after the bar mitzvah ceremony Gabe is found unconscious in the hotel's garden/park area during the celebratory party back at the hotel. A member of the family who is a doctor says that someone should call an ambulance and in short order it appears on the scene. The attendants whisk Gabe into the vehicle and take off--refusing to let his wife get in with him. It isn't until they're gone that everyone realizes that no one knows what hospital Gabe is headed for. A quick check with the hotel reveals that no one called for an ambulance and phone calls to a few of the hospitals result in no answer. That's when Melanie calls on her secret weapon--Chris.

Once they get the story sorted, Jack calls his Israeli liaison who takes over the job of finding out where Gabe has been taken. The news isn't good--no hospital had an ambulance run to that particular hotel that night. Gabe is missing and no one knows why or who might have taken him. Mel asks Chris to do what she can to investigate, but our heroine barely has time to start when the worst happens. Gabe's body is found beaten to death in a less desirable part of the city. It's up to Chris to figure out who wanted Gabe dead and why.

The best part of this one is the look at Israel in the early 2000's when air travel was still fairly easy. We get a good look at various parts of the country--and Jerusalem in particular--and we get to meet various citizens of the country. The mystery plot is good--though it's a little more riddled with coincidence than some of the others. The death was a little brutal and given the circumstances, I was surprised that Harris didn't have one of the suspects show a little more feeling about what happened...especially since things went a little farther than intended. The last time I read this (pre-blogging days), I gave it four stars, but I think this time around it's really a ★★ outing.

Deaths =  one beaten to death
Calendar of Crime: November (Primary action)

No comments: