Books by Harriet K. Feder

Released: March 1, 2001

An interesting but not always successful mix of Jewish and Iroquois/Seneca tradition, custom, and lore form the backdrop for this mystery set in upstate New York. Tenth-grader Aviva "Vivi" Hartman has come with her rabbi father from Buffalo to a small town so that Rabbi Hartman can conduct the funeral of a Jewish high-school girl found dead on sacred Indian ground. It becomes clear before long, however, that the victim, allegedly killed in an accident while on an archery-club outing, was murdered. Vivi passes the time while in town working on a project for a social-studies class back at her own school: following a student around and taking notes about her life and activities. When that student experiences a near-brush with death, Vivi becomes convinced that the girl is the target of a killer trying to hush her up. Did this girl, the school photographer who accompanied the archery club, capture the murder on film? Vivi puts her knowledge of pilpul—the ancient Jewish system of logic used to decipher passages of the Torah—to work and sets about solving the mystery. Meanwhile, the long-simmering relations between a group of white students and some of the Senecas threaten to burst, with members of each group accusing the other of murder and bringing to the fore some lurid details about the victim's and the accused murderer's lives. Feder interweaves details of Jewish and Seneca traditions and ceremonies and is knowledgeable about and respectful of both groups, and the solutions to the murder and another mystery are unexpected, though not entirely plausible. Confirmed mystery readers will probably take to this one, but it's nothing special; characterizations are superficial and the writing is, for the most part, awkward. (Fiction. 12-14)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 4, 1992

Brooding over her rabbi father's refusal to let her date a non-Jew, Vivi flies from her home in Buffalo to her grandmother's condo in Miami Beach and is embroiled in events culminating in the arrest of a Nazi war criminal who's been stalking, and being stalked by, Gram's circle of friends and fellow survivors. Though the narration has some rough spots typical of the genre (e.g., Vivi and her new friend ``Mike''—Micah—are far too bright to be confused by the old notion of thinking in black and white), and Feder depends a lot on coincidence and unlikely circumstances (especially Vivi's central role), she does weave a great many themes into a satisfying, neatly resolved plot. The role of Jewish women in traditional homes; the tragedy of a Nazi ship carrying Jewish refugees who were not allowed to land in Miami and had to return to Europe; vital friendships between Jews and gentiles; espionage, undercover agents, concealed identities, and a mild romance—it's almost too much to take in, but, overall, the serious concerns are well integrated with the adventure. Apparently, Feder's first novel for young people: ambitious, but creditable. (Fiction. 10-14) Read full book review >