Review: Rabban Gamaliel, the Rabbi of Rabbis and the arbiter of the sacred Law, has the unpleasant burden of solving a complex crime, a death by misadventure as it were, in Holy Smoke, the second "Jerusalem" mystery featuring this character by Frederick Ramsay.
A burned corpse has been found behind the curtains in the Temple Holy of Holies. Inasmuch as this area is the most sacred place on earth for the Jews, one in which only a High Priest may enter and then only on the Day of Atonement, some believe that the man — who comes to be known as the "Temple Man" — may have been struck down by an offended God … for reasons known only to the dead man and his God. No crime has been committed, much less a murder. However, Gamaliel and his good friend Loukas, a Greek physician, are not convinced. While attempting to unravel the mystery of how the Temple Man met his fate, Gamaliel and Loukas discover that goods imported into the city are being diverted, by whom and to whom yet another mystery. In the meantime, Caiaphus, the High Priest, insists there is nothing to investigate and demands that Gamaliel focus his attention on still other matters: rabbis found dead in the desert, prophets stirring up trouble among the people, and possibly most disturbing, a would-be Messiah from Galilee.
Holy Smoke interweaves historical fact — most notably the figure of Jesus of Nazareth — into a complex tale of fictional intrigue. As a whole, it's a fascinating tale, though at times rather difficult to follow. The various subplots intersect with each other in unexpected ways, a worthy challenge for Gamaliel and Loukas as it tests — and ultimately demonstrates — their sleuthing abilities, but also a somewhat trying experience for the reader.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Holy Smoke.
Acknowledgment: Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity provided a copy of Holy Smoke for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), December 2009
ISBN-13: 9781590586846; ISBN-10: 1590586840
Location(s) referenced in Holy Smoke: Jerusalem
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Holy Smoke by Frederick Ramsay — The Jerusalem Mysteries
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: February 2013
List Price: $24.95