This is my first encounter with the novels of Batya Gur, one of the best known Israeli crime fiction writers. She was the author of six novels whose hero is the Jerusalem police detective Michael Ohayon. The title in Hebrew is HaMerhak HaNahon which would literally translate by The Right Distance, but each translation in other languages re-invented the title its own way. The English edition was named Murder Guet: a musical case, and the title of the French translation that I read is Meurtre au Philharmonique (in the Livre de Poche series).

 

source http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f2/Batya_Gur_2003.jpg

 

Let me first say that beyond the genre she wrote in Batya Gur was a good novelist. It’s not that I have any disregard for crime novels or for any other literary genre, as I first judge books according to the quality of their writing and the truth of their characters. Meurtre au Philharmonique allows for a travel in time, despite the fact that the story happens just 15 years ago. And yet, so many things changed in this country in the last 15 years, that the story of two murders in a family of musicians in Jerusalem written by Batya Gur could have rather happened in a different country on a different continent and many decades apart from today. We do have in the overall atmosphere of the civilized and culture-prone city and in the characters that seem to have each of them some kind of born style of nobility from the main character of police detective Ohayun, to the family of musicians and second generation of Holocaust survivors Van Helden, and even in the more popular characters like the Ohayun’s colleague Balilti as a reflection of another Israel with better human relations, with less conflicts. Even the political situation is completely absent from the story, which could well have happened in any other civilized city in the Western hemisphere. I wonder how and if Batya Gur would have written such novels nowadays.

 

source http://www.amazon.fr/Meurtre-au-philharmonique-Batya-Gour/dp/2253148253

 

The first almost one hundred pages have actually nothing detective in them, but say a lot about the loneliness of men dedicated to their professions and about the need to get salvation through the discovery of a child and by answering the fragility and need for protection. Despite the detective story being restored in its rights as the book advances the mood of melancholy and the personal dilemmas of the main character stay in the attention of the author and of the readers all the time. There is a formula in each of Gur’s books and this is related to the hero entering a specific profession or institution, learning its secrets, and solving the mystery based on the understanding of the new world that he entered, but also, or most of all of the human nature. This book is no exception and the new world to explore is here the one of the classical music. Batya Gur succeeds to build its story around the music the characters hear or play, even the chapters have names of parts in musical composition. This is another strong aspect of this well written book, which can be satisfying for music lovers, for fans of crime stories or just for people who like to read good books.