Israeli corruption is at the core of this murder mystery set in the West Bank.
I first became aware of the world around me when Harry Truman recognized the newly independent State of Israel 70 years ago. Practically all my life, then, I’ve known what it is to be Jewish and find myself alternately proud and mortified about events in Israel. But for more than 40 years now, with the Jewish state almost continuously under the control of Right-Wing zealots, my pride in the country’s accomplishments has steadily withered away as I’ve observed from afar the horrific human rights abuses committed against the Palestinians.
However, I feel no better about the Palestinian leadership, especially that of Hamas, and I’m mystified why often highly intelligent people continue to confine themselves to refugee camps for generation after generation. I’ve worked from time to time on Arab-American civil rights projects, and I’ve seen how prosperous so many Palestinians have become here in the United States; the same is almost certainly true of those who have emigrated to Europe. I’m told I don’t appreciate the powerful tug of ancestral land. That’s true. I fail to see why successive generations of refugees should share that passion for lands lost half- or three-quarters of a century ago to their grandparents.
Murder Under the Bridge (Palestine Mystery #1) by Kate Jessica Raphael (2015) 347 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
Although I briefly traveled to Israel, I have never taken the opportunity to visit either the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. So when Kate Jessica Raphael’s novel, Murder Under the Bridge, offered me the chance to gain a Palestinian perspective on events in the region, I took it. I’m glad I did. Raphael is clearly sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, but her novel is far from one-sided. Her treatment of the several Israelis who people her book is balanced. Some (in the Israeli Army) are monsters, but not all. And the most prominent Israeli character, a police officer, comes across as reasonable and unbiased.
Murder Under the Bridge introduces Rania, a young female Palestinian police officer in the West Bank, and Chloe, a middle-aged American woman who is living with a family in a Palestinian village. Chloe is a gay Jewish-American computer programmer from San Francisco who has taken off a year to work for peace in the West Bank. The story is set in 2003, shortly after the American invasion of Iraq. When Rania discovers the body of a young woman who was murdered near the boundary between Israel and the West Bank, she is forced to buck the misogyny of most of the men around her simply to do her job. Chloe assists her in the investigation she insists on pursuing, often against explicit orders by her boss’ boss. The case brings both women face-to-face with the Israeli Army and police, with the Israeli settlers who live in gated communities in the West Bank, and with the foot-dragging of the Palestinian leadership who fear offending the Israelis. In pursuing their investigation, Rania and Chloe uncover Israeli corruption.
Kate Jessica Raphael is a feminist writer, activist, and radio journalist who lives in Oakland, California. Murder Under the Bridge is the first of what are now two novels in her Palestine Mystery series.
For additional reading
I’ve also reviewed The Collaborator of Bethlehem (Omar Yussef #1) by Matt Rees—A murder in Palestine exposes the fault lines in the refugee community.
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