damHaunted by the past and his own limitations, Israeli Detective Avraham Avraham must stop a criminal ruthless enough to target children. An explosive device is found in a suitcase near a daycare center in a quiet suburb of Tel Aviv. A few hours later, a threat is received: the suitcase was only the beginning. Inspector Avraham Avraham, back in Israel after a much-needed vacation, is assigned to the investigation. Tormented by the trauma and failure of his past case, Avraham is determined not to make the same mistakes—especially with innocent lives at stake. He may have a break when one of the suspects, a father of two, appears to have gone on the run. Is he the terrorist behind the threat? Is he trying to escape Avraham’s intense investigation? Or perhaps he’s fleeing a far more terrible crime that no one knows has been committed? No matter how much Avraham wants to atone for the past, redemption may not be possible—not when he’s entangled in a case more deceptive and abominable than any he’s ever faced.

In this evocative and gripping tale of mystery and psychological suspense A Possibility of Violence is the follow-up to The Missing File, the acclaimed first novel in D. A. Mishani’s literary crime series that was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger Award. Having read  and enjoyed The Missing File, I was looking forward to this, having a fond remembrance of the rather bleak and spare feel of the first book, and the peculiar appeal of Mishani’s unique style.

Unlike, the first book, I made the mistake of reading the first 100 pages or so of this one in rather small chunks, and consequently, due to the seemingly emotional neutrality of Mishani’s writing, I found it slightly difficult to return to it each time. Luckily, however, I rectified this by reading the last 200 pages in a single sitting, so becoming far more embroiled in what later reveals itself as a strangely impersonal and emotionally unsettling read. If I was to really analyse what I liked about the book, where normally emotional engagement with the characters is key, I think it is the sense of disassociation that Mishani brings to his prose and the characters contained within. Although he adopts the traditional tenet of a central detective in Avraham Avraham, I didn’t really feel that I got to know him in the way that others are so defined by the foibles and eccentricities of their characters. Indeed the book opens with Avraham on a visit to his lover Marianka in Belgium, as a precursor to her moving to Israel to be with him, but their relationship has a strange coldness about it, as Avraham is a man not adept at grand gestures. As the book progresses, communication breaks down in advance of her move, and it is not until the end of the book, that the chasm between them is fully explained. Likewise, he gives little of himself away, under the threat of a report regarding his handling of the investigation in the previous book (which is often referred to and explained if you have not read the first book), and the potential implications of this in what could be a contentious current investigation. He has a workman-like doggedness to his character, revealing little of his own emotions, but like all the finest detectives has a natural intuition to what may be being witheld from him, leading him on a different course of investigation which perturbs his superiors. I rather like the stoicism and solidity he exerts throughout the book, as one can sometimes have too much of the deeply troubled or overly extrovert detective characters.

Bearing in mind that the book encompasses the themes of child abuse, and possible marital violence, again, the calm neutrality with which Mishani imbues his central character, is equally reflected in the unfolding of the plot. What could be substantial and highly emotive themes are handled in an understated way, which in a way make the violent acts perpetrated more resonant and affecting. From the initial act of a suspected bomb being placed outside of a nursery school, a violent attack on one of the employees of the nursery, and a connection with a father of two whose wife is suddenly strangely absent, Mishani balances the plot perfectly, using the conduit of Avraham to to tie them together, with the denouement of the book stepping outside the previously more unemotional feel bringing a genuinely heart-rending conclusion. So, my admiration for Mishani remains intact, despite the uniquely unsettling and almost clinical style of his writing. A strange reading experience, but one that I can recommend away from the cliches that define so much of crime writing, and in stark contrast to the all too common schmaltz- paved paths that some police protagonists find themselves on. A good read, and more importantly, something a little different.

(With thanks to Quercus for the ARC)

 

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