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The Ritual Bath: The First Decker/Lazarus Novel (Decker/Lazarus Novels) Mass Market Paperback – January 25, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Like the series it inspired, Kellerman's award-winning 1986 debut novel combines police procedure, via hard-boiled LAPD detective Peter Decker, with Judaic rites and rituals courtesy of its heroine Rina Lazarus, an ultra-Orthodox widowed mother of two. Decker and Lazarus are brought together by the brutal rape of a young bride-to-be at the mikvah (a bathhouse used in the purification ritual) that Rina manages in the Hollywood hills. Mitchell Greenberg nicely vocalizes the story from Decker's point of view, with the detective struggling to stick to his sleuthing in spite of his developing feelings for Rina. The novel continually rings true, from explaining various Orthodox beliefs and customs to Decker and his crew's no-nonsense unmasking of the villain. Greenberg moves in and out of the novel's elements smoothly and efficiently. He paces the police work with just the right sense of urgency and frustration; handles the romantic sequences with the proper emotion and without a hint of sentimentality; and breezes through the many Jewish-centric passages with the confidence and clarity of a yeshiva graduate. An Avon paperback. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"A Master of Mystery" -- Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Engaging" -- -- Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Exceptionally fine suspense." -- -- San Diego Union-Tribune
"Phenomenal!" -- -- Murder Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Detective Peter Decker is called to investigate a vicious rape in a remote Orthodox Jewish Community in the California hills outside of Los Angeles. One of the women was brutally attacked as she walked home from the mikvah, the bathhouse where the cleansing ritual is performed. Rina Lazarus, the lovely young widow who discovered the victim, acts as an intermediary between Decker and the yeshiva, (a Jewish religious seminary), students and their families who are suspicious of outsiders.
Decker is also working on a case involving a brutal serial rapist with a foot fetish, who operates in an area near the yeshiva. It is a possibility that this psychopath, called the Foothill rapist, is the attacker. Or the perpetrator(s) could be a gang of teen thugs who have been responsible for anti-Semitic vandalism and violence in the past. And then there are suspects who are members of the religious community itself. From the first, it is clear that further assaults of a similar nature are more than likely to occur. The next incident, on the yeshiva grounds, is a horrific murder. As evidence accumulates, it appears that Rina is the psychopath's primary target.
Rina is a beautiful woman both outside and in. The mother of two young sons, she lost her husband, a brilliant seminary scholar, at a very young age. She is now in her late twenties and maintains the mikvah, as well as teaches mathematics, to support herself and her boys. She has not had much contact with men since her husband's untimely death, and although she and Decker are very much drawn to each other from the first, she refuses to involve herself with a man who is not an Orthodox Jew. Rina had a secular upbringing and chose to become an observant Jewess when she married.
The author deftly handles the workings of various intense personal relationships and crime solving with apparent ease. As with the other Kellerman books I read, her characters are her strength. They are truly three-dimensional and their dialogue is extremely realistic. I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery, the humanity of the characters, and details of the Orthodox Jewish customs and lifestyle.
Her mysteries are solid. No loose threads are left behind. I plan to read more of this excellent author's work and highly recommend it to others.
Rina Lazarus makes a sympathetic character, one that draws the reader into the story, even if they've never personally known any Orthodox Jews. As a woman, it's easy to identify with this character. A widowed mother of two little boys, she supports her family by teaching school and working as the mikveh lady at the ritual bath.
Author Faye Kellerman also deftly handles some cultural issues that exist within the Jewish community: Rina's less religious parents aren't happy with her choice to live as an Orthodox Jew. Even in later books in the series, her parents remain distant, bit players in the lives of their daughter and her two sons.
Without spoiling the heart of the story, LAPD cop Peter Decker comes into her life after investigating a crime that happens outside the mikveh, the ritual bath house. The story between them unfolds in a reasonable and believable way, and sets the pace for the entire series of books, which have stretched over twenty-two years. None of them are as much fun to read as 'The Ritual Bath.'
In this haunting mystery, you learn how Decker and Lazarus came to be.
Although I'm not Jewish, Ms. Kellerman's detailed narrative makes learning about Orthodox Judaism a real pleasure.
Throw in cops, bad guys and mystery you can't top it! Oh, did I mention one hell of a love story?
The first crime in this particular book was the rape of a friend of Rina's. As Peter struggles to find the guilty party, he is stopped by Rina and her Jewish community and their strict laws and beliefs. At the same time, there is serial rapist. The police and Peter are not convinced that all of the rapes were committed by the same person. Or are they? The closer Peter comes to solving the case; a wall of religion and rituals stops him. A policewoman is killed and it looks like Rina is the real target.
This definitely one of Ms. Kellerman's best!