Day of Atonement

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Peter Decker was attracted to Rina Lazarus upon their first encounter. Decker was called to the scene of a crime and Rina was helpful in the ensuing investigation (THE RITUAL BATH). New cases intervened (SACRED AND PROFANE and MILK AND HONEY) but the relationship deepened; now, at last, the Widow Lazarus becomes the second Mrs. Decker. Rina’s two sons are overjoyed, Decker’s daughter by his first marriage warmly receives her stepmother, and even his coworkers are pleased. The marriage of Peter and Rina, however, is just the calm before the storm.

First there is the matter of a personal revelation about Decker’s past which surfaces in the course of the honeymoon and causes him severe distress. Moreover, the evil that humans do intrudes upon the happy couple in the midst of the celebration. The son of Rina’s former brother-in-law vanishes, and Decker is pressed into service to function in a professional capacity. He must put aside his personal trauma and call upon his years of experience to discover the young man’s whereabouts.

Judaism, particularly the Orthodox version, is an integral part of this exceptional series—never more so than in the case of DAY OF ATONEMENT. The intricacies of Orthodox life in a sheltered Brooklyn enclave are delineated in such detail so as to overwhelm, on occasion, the narrative. Moreover, the subplots involving Decker’s past and his understandable inability to reconcile the demands of his profession with the independent nature of his bride cause the pace of the work to stall somewhat. Still, Kellerman’s skill as a storyteller comes through and the result is yet another fine entry in a popular series. Although this work can be profitably read in isolation from other volumes in the series, it would be wise to begin at the beginning in order to appreciate fully its intricate nuances.