The Ritual Bath is the first novel in the Faye Kellerman series.

As of 2018, there are 25 books in the Faye Kellerman series of detective novels featuring Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus. The series launched in 1986 with The Ritual Bath. It’s an unusually strong start for a series.

The Faye Kellerman series starts with an unusually strong first novel

In The Ritual Bath, we become acquainted with Detective Peter Decker and his future partner, Rina Lazarus. Since Rina is an Orthodox Jew and works as a teacher in a Los Angeles-area yeshiva, we also learn a great deal about the contemporary practice of Orthodox Judaism.

The Ritual Bath (Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus #1) by Faye Kellerman (1986) 327 pages @@@@@ (5 out of 5)

When a brutal rape takes place at the yeshiva, Peter is called to investigate. He’s one of three police officers detailed to the unit for sex crimes and juvenile offenses. Upon arriving, he meets Rina, an elementary school teacher whose sideline is to manage the mikva, or ritual bath. She had been the last person to speak with the victim. Unfortunately, the victim is unwilling to cooperate with police, and Peter’s investigation quickly stalls. Then other violent crimes begin to occur, and gradually clues to the identity of the perpetrators turn up.

The Ritual Bath is suspenseful to a fault, and the detail about the practice of Orthodox Judaism is engrossing. Although I was raised as a Jew, I had no exposure whatsoever to the practices Faye Kellerman describes in this novel. These details give the book a third dimension, beyond the development of Rina and Peter’s characters and the flawless plotting. Both Peter and Rina are engaging characters individually, and as a couple they’re fascinating.

About the author

In addition to the 25 novels in the Faye Kellerman series, the author has written eight other novels. She co-authored two of those with her bestselling novelist husband, Jonathan Kellerman, and one with one of their four children, Aliza Kellerman. Their son, Jesse Kellerman, is also a successful mystery writer who occasionally collaborates with his father. Faye Kellerman holds a degree in dentistry but has never practiced. Writing sidelined her dental career. She is a practicing Orthodox Jew, as are her husband and son.

The Los Angeles Times (December 2, 1985) contains an informative early article about the Kellerman family.

For additional reading

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