Ali Karim is a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.
After international acclaim for Mishani’s debut novel ‘The Missing File’, including shortlisting for the CWA International Dagger [and winning the Martin Beck Award for best translated crime novel in Sweden], we have his sophomore work released from Quercus Publishing in the UK [and Harpercollins in the US], which continues the adventures of Israeli detective Avraham Avraham [known as ‘Avi’ to his colleagues]. To call Mishani’s work, literary would do it a disservice, as this novel is a carefully [and at times disturbingly] plotted crime novel, by an author who masks his academic pedigree, with the pace and insight of a thriller.
It is axiomatic that as hard as it for a new author to find themselves in print, it is even harder for a non-English author to find themselves published in the English Language. This is due to the authors work finding sufficient merit [by a publisher] to commission the additional costs of translation and further editing, as well as the additional marketing effort required to place the work toward an international market. It is of little surprise that Mishani’s work leaped over these hurdles, finding himself at the forefront of international crime fiction including UK and America.
The novel opens with Detective Avraham returning to Israel, still haunted by the issues raised in The Missing File, as well as settling in with a new boss Benny Saban, and awaiting the return of his lover, Marianka who appears torn between her life in Europe and her life with Avraham in Israel. Due to staff shortages, Avraham’s boss, is pleased when Avi agrees to curtail his leave and get stuck into the workload now piling up. Avi elects to investigate a case that forms the title of the novel ‘A Possibility of Violence’. It appears that someone [possibly] is threatening the neighbourhood Holon, a suburb of Tel Aviv with what appears to be a sinister warning. A suitcase is spotted by a neighbour placed between an office license shop, and a nursery school. Avraham works alone initially as the department are short staffed, investigating what appears as a bomb-threat, or a warning.
A Possibility of Violence follows the well-worn tract of the police procedural, but what sets this thriller apart from the others, following the same trail is its intense characterisation, insights into dark motivations of troubled people, muscular and confident narrative, sprayed onto an unfamiliar and alien environment. It also appears extremely topical, when contrasted against the recent spike in political unrest in the region, due to the issues raised in Gaza. It makes you wonder what it is like living and working in such a volatile country. Mishani’s work makes you learn about Israeli life, but in a subtle and unobtrusive manner, allowing the narrative to live and breathe the land that this tale is set against.
As Avraham’s investigation progresses, he has to juggle several leads that may or may not be connected. There is a suspect, but the Detective is not convinced of the veracity of the witness that spotted the man; a mysterious figure lurking in the bushes who could be a nobody out early, buying milk and a loaf of bread. Then we have the Nursery, and a case of bullying that may conceal something far more distressing. Soon Avraham realises the significance of the suitcase, as well as a missing woman, and perhaps what was presented to the detective is far from what the reality of the situation is.
Despite the complexity of the investigation, our young Detective has to also grapple with the wait for his lover, Marianka as ‘distance’, like the mysterious suitcase, pose existential risk to Avraham, as well as some people who are hidden in the shadows of the Tel Aviv suburb that is Holon. One key area of appeal is the Detective’s youthful and at times hesitant manner, for he is no Morse, Rebus, or Hercule Poirot. Instead he is a fallible young man learning the craft of detection, as he thinks on his feet and uncovers the truth and lies that circumnavigate the lives of the troubled, and the lives of the desperate. He does so with compassion, as age has not yet corrupted his mind, with the horrors of this worl,d and worst that human nature can throw.
This follow-up novel exceeds the promises that The Missing File alluded to, and is from the British publishers of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, who now cast their net from Sweden, to the Middle-East, examining the policing and culture of Israel as the backdrop to an engaging narrative seen through the eyes of a young and perceptive Detective, one with a long future in the crime fiction genre. In two words, Highly Recommended.