This is the second in the mystery series starring Detective Peter Decker and orthodox Jewish widow Rina Lazarus. The first is The Ritual Bath.
We learned a lot about the orthodox Jewish practices in The Ritual Bath, and in Sacred and Profane, we learn even more. Sergeant Decker and Mz. Rina are in love, but she will not consummate their love until marriage, and she won’t marry him because although a Jew by birth, he was not brought up in the Jewish faith by his adoptive parents. He begins studies in order to convert, and not just convert, but to become a fully religious Jew. (Did you like the consummate their love euphemism for ‘she won’t put out’? I’m trying to inject a little class here. And that’s what I’ve got – very little class.)
So along with the dear detective, we learn all kinds of new things about being an orthodox Jew. But things are strained between them, and Rina decides to pack up and move to NYC near her deceased husband’s family to give their relationship a chance to see where it might go.
As we tune into life there in California, it has been about a year since Rina has been gone. But it is not all beer and kishkas for the detective. While camping out at Christmas with Rina’s two boys, one of the boys wanders away from the campsite and discovers bones! Turns out to be the skeletons of two young women. Some fancy dental detective work reveals the identies of one of them — a young teenager. Some more investigating shows the other skeleton belongs to a real kinky sleezy woman in her twenties. Both skeletons were charred and burned.
This leads the homicide department on a trail through the sleeze and snuff film industry, and although the subject matter was truly disgusting, the detective work was just great.
The dichotomy of Peter trying to study to be a religious Jew, and the horrendous events he is investigating is the source of the title of the book.
We end with a phone call from Rina telling Decker she has to talk to him …. in private. I sure hope this bodes well. Well, it has to – there are like 14 more books in the series.
Factoid of the Day: Did you know that people born with congenital syphilis are often hard of hearing? [‘born with congenital syphilis – Department of Redundancy Department.]