Unkosher Slaughter by Jane Berman. (Pardes Publishing, 324 pp. $15 paperback)
Jane Berman has written an absorbing, fast-paced murder mystery involving three deaths. All the action takes place on Kibbutz Kerem El, an Orthodox kibbutz situated in Israel’s northern mountains and near an Arab village and an artists village.
Rachel Shine, who was born and bred on the kibbutz but now lives in Jerusalem, has suffered the physical and emotional trauma of a terrorist attack and is taking a break from her work as a psychologist. Unfortunately, there is no break from the horror of death. Even as she prepares to spend Pesah with her parents on the kibbutz, she learns that the beloved kibbutz rebbe has been murdered in the synagogue—a day after he exhorted the congregants to confess their sins.
The rebbe’s son-in-law, Shmaya, confesses to the murder, but could he really have done it? When Rachel arrives she is recruited to consult with the grief-stricken kibbutzniks, many of them Holocaust survivors. But even as several people are relieved that the murderer confessed, there is another murder, an act of arson, and finally a third murder.
As death unfolds around them, Rachel speaks with the kibbutzniks and learns quite a bit: People are never what they appear to be, and the list of possible suspects who were furious at the strict rebbe grows long. To brighten the mood, there is the attractive detective Absalom who is himself recovering from injuries suffered in a terrorist attack. There are other issues of negative and positive aspects of being religious, the liberal or religious views on conversion for the sake of marriage, the conundrum of a beloved rebbe whose strict decisions caused so much pain. Berman creates fully fleshed characters. Rachel, herself, in recovery from anxiety and PTSD, turns out to be a very courageous, though sometimes foolish, person.