In May 2005, the suspense field lost one of its finest contributors, Israeli author Batya Gur, who died at age 57 after a protracted illness. Her intricate novels featuring Jerusalem police superintendent Michael Ohayon were (and are) exceptionally popular in her home country and in Europe as well. Long a critic of the Israeli government and its policies regarding the Territories (i.e., Palestine), Gur was an outspoken voice of moderation in troubled times. This shows up in her books, most recently Murder in Jerusalem.
Ostensibly a tale of murder on the set of an Israeli news program, Gur's latest, and likely last, work serves as a parable about the excesses of government, and the intricate balance between reporting the news and being part of the news. When film set designer Tirzah Rubin is crushed by a falling marble pillar, everyone agrees it's a tragedy, but most believe it to be an accident. One naysayer is Matty Cohen, who witnessed what he thinks may have been a confrontation between Tirzah and an unknown second party, just minutes before her untimely death. Things heat up when Matty keels over dead during interrogation; the cause of death is an overdose of his heart medicine, four times the recommended amount. Accident or murder? Either way, it is enough to raise a question or two in the mind of Michael Ohayon. Police investigation or not, however, the news must be reported, and Ohayon finds himself increasingly shuffled to the sidelines as the reportage of the events of tumultuous times takes precedence over any one death. Methodically, Ohayon and his team of investigators sift through clues and testimony, little realizing that Tirzah Rubin's death was but the tip of the iceberg, the tiny visible part of a conspiracy that could shake the core of Israeli society and government. Those in the know say that Gur's stories were based on fact, the characters thinly disguised versions of real people; according to Wikipedia, for many readers, part of the fun of reading her books is to try to match her characters with the real people who may have inspired them. Whatever the case, Gur's novels were insightful, thought provoking and eminently readable. Sleep ye well, Batya Gur.