ZADDIK by David Rosenbaum


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 Rosenbaum's first novel is a strange brew indeed: the theft of a fabulous jewel from Manhattan's diamond district ends up connecting the fate of Poland under Napoleon with the messianic union of two long-hostile Jewish sects. Brooklyn's Satmar rabbi Joel Teitel has been planning to give the 72-carat stone as a dowry to his daughter Esther when she marries Adam Seligson, son of the Lubavitcher rebbe, in the hopes of uniting the two warring clans. So when thieves kill Zalman Gottleib in search of the stone Rabbi Teitel had asked Gottleib to keep safe, and the stone vanishes, the Satmar community, skeptical of police efforts, hires ex- cop Dov Taylor to recover it. Before Taylor can trace it to Gottleib's friend Ariel Levin, Levin too has been killed, and the jewel spirited off, by an assassin called the Cutter; his master, Ladislaw Czartoryski, the Magician; and their shiksa accomplice, Maria Radziwell. So far this sounds like a replay of A Stranger Among Us minus Melanie Griffith, but when Taylor is attacked by the Cutter, he has a vision back to a haimish John Dickson Carr historical romance: suddenly it's 1814, and Taylor's ancestor Hirsch Lieb, the zaddik of Orlik, is involved in a plot with historical figures like Rebbe Yakov Yitzhak, the Seer of Lublin, and Prince Adam Czartoryski, protector of Lublin's Jewish community, to bribe Napoleon, using the same stone, to grant Polish independence. The plot ends in a pogrom just in time to send the story back to the present, where the Magician and the stone reveal a further historical pedigree stretching from Cecil Rhodes's diamond syndicate to Adolf Eichmann and Kim Philby--and where Taylor will have to make one last spiritual connection with his great-great- grandfather in order to foil the theft, save the wedding, and maybe earn a bride of his own. Whew.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-89296-540-1
Page count: 448pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1993


by Rachel Cantor