Early in LITERARY MURDER: A CRITICAL CASE, Shaul Tirosh, a famous, flamboyant critic and poet, is found lifeless in his office at the Department of Hebrew Literature. Barely a few hours have passed since his junior colleague Iddo Dudai was asphyxiated while scuba diving in Eilat. Police Superintendent Ohayon, an alumnus of the university, takes charge of the investigation, which concentrates on colleagues of the victims. DEATH IN THE LITERATURE DEPARTMENT is the literal translation of the novel’s original Hebrew title (MAVET BA-HUG LE-SIFRUT), and professional and personal tensions among professors, students, and staff arouse the reader’s interest and suspicions.
Senior professors Ariyeh Klein and Kalman Aharonovitz clashed in style and methodology with Tirosh, a notorious philanderer. Among women he seduced and abandoned, Yael Eisenstein, whom he forced to have an abortion, and Dudai’s wife, Ruth, are ascribed the motive for murder. So, too, is Tuvia Shai, Tirosh’s most dedicated disciple, as is his wife Ruchama, who had been sleeping with Tirosh until recently spurned.
Ohayon’s probe takes him as far as North Carolina and the hospital bed of a Russian dissident with shocking information about Tirosh’s claims to literary accomplishment. The detective’s commanding officer is fond of remarking that a police station is not like a university, but LITERARY MURDER stresses the similarities. Ohayon learns that analyzing a poem is not very different from deciphering the enigmas of human motivation and malefaction. While enjoying a sophisticated story that transcends the genres of mystery fiction and academic novel, Gur’s reader encounters lessons in aesthetics and ethics.