DAY OF ATONEMENT by Faye Kellerman

Day of atonementOh, goody!  Another Detective Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus mystery.  Love these things.  This is the fourth in the series, the others being The Ritual Bath, Sacred and Profane, and Milk and Honey.

In this ‘episode’,  Rina and Peter have married and are on their honeymoon, such as it is.  She has asked Peter if they could go back to New York to be with her inlaws (the parents of her deceased first husband) for the High Holy Days.  Doesn’t seem like much of a honeymoon to me, but he agrees, and they are put up in a tiny guest room at her inlaws.  At a big meal, Peter sees a woman and almost faints.  She is a friend of the inlaws, but get this:  she is Peter’s biological mother.  She is an orthodox Jew, from a strict family, got preggers at 15, and her father forced her to give up the child, and marry his selection for her spouse.   Peter did research, found her, and left his contact info on a site where separated children and parents can make contact.  She never contacted him.

Well!   What a mess!

This biologial mother has five adult children,  all of whom live in the Boro Park orthodox Jewish community area, and one of them has a difficult 14 year old boy,  Noam, who disappears on Rosh Hashanana.   Decker gets involved looking for this kid, who has been taken up by a psycho dude who promises him freedom and takes him to California.   Peter is hot on their trail, and it becomes a despairing story of unforgivable acts, sins so terrible that even the repentance offered on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, may not be enough to overcome them.

A dark book,  interweaving the theme of forgiveness among the story of the runaway boy:  will his strict family forgive him for running away?  Can they forgive him for his other acts?   Can Decker forgive his mother for giving him up?  Can he forgive her for not contacting him as an adult?  Can she forgive him his anger at her?

As it has been said, forgiveness is not for the forgiven;  it is for the forgiver.

And leaves us with the nagging question:  what new wife asks her new husband to spend the holidays with the inlaws of her deceased husband?  And what husband agrees?   Sufficient unto the day, right?

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