Review: A Possibility of Violence

Crime Fiction - Cop lacking competence


D A Mishani laments the fact that there is no famous Israeli detective - no Kurt Wallander or Sara Lund.

Home-grown heroes have tended to be spies or soldiers, rather than policeman. But, according to Mishani, times are changing. Israel has become much more of a western-style urban society, creating the environment where crime and criminals can flourish. And that is good news for crime writers.

His latest book, A Possibility of Violence, (Quercus, £8.99) is the second novel to feature Inspector Avraham Avraham of the Holon police (Mishani himself is from Holon, but now lives in Tel Aviv). The first, The Missing File, garlanded with international awards, was the first crime novel written in Hebrew to make it on to the shortlist of the Sapir Awards, the Israeli version of the Man Booker.

Like Mishani, who is a former crime fiction editor, Inspector Avraham is a big fan of detective stories, and complains that fictional policemen invariably get it wrong - even when they solve their cases.

But then, he should know. The start of A Possibility of Violence - which works as a sequel to The Missing File - sees Avraham trying to get his career back on track after a murder case in which his errors almost allowed the killers to get away with it.

Avraham is constantly “surprised” and “stunned” as the case unfolds

He is soon on the trail of a suspect who leaves a fake bomb outside a nursery, but gradually Avraham realises that a more serious crime has taken place.

Avraham is constantly "surprised" and "stunned" as the case unfolds. His attempts at understanding suspects leads him to make misjudgments. He lets his emotions direct his investigations. When he realises whodunnit, he fails to understand why they dunnit.

If Mishani is trying to convey the idea that police work is difficult, he certainly succeeds

The narrative is split between the policeman's point of view and that of his prime suspect, so the reader is often a step ahead of the inspector, removing much of the suspense.

Mishani writes in a cool, economic style - key details can slip by unnoticed, which allows the reader the opportunity to empathise with his detective. The tone may be a little undramatic for some tastes - thrills are rare - but the climax at Ben Gurion airport is effective and tense.

Mishani is very good at depicting the way Israeli police work: the bureaucracy, the relationships in the department, the interrogations. His Holon is a convincing city of hot, dusty streets and cramped apartments.

And in Avraham Avraham he has created a complex, flawed sleuth who may very well kickstart a vogue for Israel detectives.

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