There have only been two novels published in English by Dror Mishani and they’re both terrific.
I finished the second one late last night and I may burst if I have to wait a whole year for the next one.
Mr Mishani is Israeli which makes the setting original for a crime novel. I don’t mean there’s no crime in Israel, or even crime novels. In a collection of short stories called Tel Aviv Noir that I like a lot, the editor, Etgar Keret, says in his prologue
…In spite of its outwardly warm and polite exterior, Tel Aviv has quite a bit to hide. At any club, most of the people dancing around you to the sounds of a deep-house hit dedicated to peace and love have undergone extensive automatic-weapons training and a hand grenade tutorial…
My experience of Israel and Tel Aviv is that the people are weary of being hated by their Arab neighbours and the rest of the world, and weary of being either in a war where they are always seen as the bad guys for defending themselves or at threat of being at war where they will be seen as the bad guys for defending themselves. They do military service for two years at the end of their teens, and are conscripted every year for another month until they’re 45. So, unlike most Europeans or Americans, they have likely seen war, combat, dead bodies. They may well have fired weapons at other people. I think this makes them a serious people.
The books are set in a dreary suburb of Tel Aviv and their star is Avraham Avraham, known as Avi, but even so. He’s a detective with the police force. I think his name shows some kind of genius. I can think of Simone Simone, but she was an actress and who else has a double name? Ford Maddox Ford and Jerome K Jerone, but the middle bits interrupt the repetition so they seem like cheating. Sirhan Sirhan assassinated Robert Kennedy so that shows where it can lead you. There are other showbiz types: Miou-Miou and a female wrestler called Kelly Kelly. There’s Walla Walla and Baden Baden, but they’re places. Wiki even has a page on the phenomenon here. Look, my point is that it’s rare and you’d remember someone with two names the same. Avraham Avraham would blend into a crowd in many other ways. He’s a good detective and a good man and he cares a lot about his cases but the most important thing, maybe, is that we, I mean ‘I’ but I hope you feel the same, love him.
The mood of the books is melancholic. Sadness is part of them like darkness is part of night. Avi seems not to have any friends. There’s an ex-wife I don’t think we ever meet and his female boss is fond of him, but not in that way. He eats dinner with his parents sometimes otherwise he smokes and sits on his balcony and thinks about the crimes he’s working on.
I want to be careful because I don’t want to spoil the books for you but I need to make you want to read them. In the first book a child is reported missing by his parents. Avi makes some mistakes investigating it. The crime would be solved earlier if he hadn’t hesitated. The perpetrators aren’t punished enough because too much evidence is destroyed while he delays. His errors are made because of consideration to the suspects. Avi is a kind and thoughtful man. These may not be the best or most useful qualities for a detective but Avi is who we have. He goes to Belgium to discover something about the crime and meets Marianka and discovers love. She’s a Slovakian immigrant and, helpfully, a detective with the Brussels police.
The second book starts three months after the first finishes. Avi and Marianka have spent the summer together. He returns to Tel Aviv and she is going to join him. A suitcase containing a fake bomb is discovered outside a nursery. Suspects are questioned. Avi suspects a man of another, more serious, crime. His boss, the one who likes him, shows him a report she wrote about the mistakes he’d made in the earlier case. There are repercussions. She sends him an email saying there’s something else she has to tell him. Marianna hasn’t arrived and isn’t taking Avi’s calls. He sends her a text: Will we never speak again? She doesn’t reply to this one, either. After I read that I had to put the book down. A tear rolled down my cheek.
If I tell you any more I will spoil them for you and I want you to enjoy these books as much as I do. And that’s why I love the work of D. A. Mishani.