Title: Murder Under the Fig Tree: A Palestine Mystery (A Palestine Mystery #2)
Author: Kate Raphael
Publisher: She Writes Press
Release Date: September 19th 2017
Genre(s): LGBT fiction, Mystery, Cultural
Page Count: 320
Reviewed by: LenaRibka
Heat Level: 0.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Hamas has taken power in Palestine, and the Israeli government is rounding up threats. When Palestinian policewoman Rania Bakara finds herself thrown in prison, though she has never been part of Hamas, her friend Chloe flies in from San Francisco to get her out. Chloe begs an Israeli policeman named Benny for help–and Benny offers Rania a way out: investigate the death of a young man in a village near her own. The young man’s neighbors believe the Israeli army killed him; Benny believes his death might not have been so honorable.
Initially, Rania refuses; she has no interest in helping the Israelis. But she is released anyway, and returns home to find herself without a job and suspected of being a traitor. Searching for redemption, she launches an investigation into the young man’s death that draws her into a Palestinian gay scene she never knew existed.
With Chloe and her Palestinian Australian lover as guides, Rania explores a Jerusalem gay bar, meets with a lesbian support group, and plunges deep into the victim’s world, forcing her to question her beliefs about love, justice, and cultural identity.
I decided NOT to write my review immediately after I had finished this book in order to distance myself from political influence and to concentrate only on the fictional content, but it was not THAT easy. Well…It is not a fairy tale about a unicorn that got lost in the wood. It is a Palestinian mystery set in the middle of a long-time conflict, the conflict that is so old and established that meanwhile no one really knows when and how it began, but the worst is – no one really no how to solve it. Do you think it is possible to avoid politics in a novel like this?
The main character, Rania, is a female Palestine detective, who investigates on her own the murder of a young Palestinian man. She is officially not on duty, taking rest, after having being released from an Israel’s jail where she was kept imprisoned without charge. Rania wants to find evidence to prove that it was Israelis solders who shot the Palestinian student. That means compensation money from the Israel’s army for his family. For the local Palestinian police department the case is clear but insolvable, but not for Rania and her detective instincts. Though the deeper she gets into the investigation, the more involved people she interviews, the more doubts she has about the case. Her suspicion grows stronger when she finds out that the murdered Palestinian student was gay. Will Rania stay true to her principles of justice or will she stop digging and accept the official version?
OK. I’ll try to be OBJECTIVE.
It was less a mystery but rather an exceptional introduction into the foreign cultures and traditions. It was an entertaining narrative full of vibrant and colorful images. Kate Raphael doesn’t stay on a single perspective, she gives us the story from different angles, different POVs. It is why I would say, the author has more than one parallel story lines.
It made the story in the whole more richly.
At the beginning I found her using of Arabic and Hebrew in dialogues a bit annoying, but soon I understood her reason, and appreciate it. It is indispensable for the development of the plot. Her characters are Jews, Palestinians and Americans, and it is important to know who winch language uses at the very moment.
Everything in this book feels very real. The author knows too good not only the difficult backdrop of the Israel-Palestine issue but also a Palestinian day-to-day life. No wonder- she lived in Palestine for a while and have close connections to LGBT community there, she has friends in Palestine. It is the reason why this book has understandings more for the one side than for another.
But I had a hard time reading through some episodes. With all my understanding of author’s personal experience. Though I am aware that this story is told from the Palestinian’s view, and – desired or not – I believe that she doesn’t exaggerate, unfortunately also about the mutual hatred of Israelis and Palestinians.
I won’t define this book as an extremely enjoyable read, because the topic is just a way too complicated and too serious and bloody to use the word “joy”, but it was a very interesting and somehow an exceptional read. With a solid and vivid writing style, authentic characters, an entertaining narrative flow from the different perspectives, with more than just one story line coined by vibrant and colorful images and with an ending that could have been very satisfying if not a spoon of tar in a barrel of honey on the very top. But maybe it is just me being subjective.
It is a second book in the series, but one can read it as a stand-alone. And the author made me curious enough to looking forward to the next installment of the series.