It’s a long way from Harvard Law School and the public defender’s office to the L.A. mommy track, and there are plenty of bumps along the road. So now that Juliet Applebaum has a one-day babysitter, Fraydle Finkelstein, lined up for Ruby, her three-year-old “baby Electra,” and her newborn son Isaac—who, like the Pinkertons, never sleeps—she isn’t going to be deterred just because Fraydle has disappeared. Poking her nose into her sitter’s business, Juliet discovers that Fraydle, the archetypal good girl, had a few secrets. Although she had agreed to an arranged marriage with another Hassid, Ari Hirsch of the prominent Borough Park Hirsches, she also had an Israeli boyfriend, Yossi, who wanted her to defy her family and choose him instead. Fraydle’s parents don’t want Juliet to investigate, but why should that stop her? She’s soon flying cross-country to scope out Ari and his Brooklyn Hasidic community, then returning to L.A., where a waitress at a local hangout providentially turns out to be Yossi’s neighbor and remembers Fraydle looking distraught and, well, different just before she vanished. Was that woman really Fraydle, or her younger sister Sarah? The answer lies in the ownership of a sweater—and the contents of a kosher-for-Passover deep-freezer locker, to the grief of all.
Waldman (Nursery Crimes, not reviewed) is a master of smart, snappy repartee, and probably knows Jewish folklore as well as anyone who’s not Faye Kellerman. Her tone and humor, however, might be better suited to lighthearted capers than to the downbeat side of murder.