The chief rabbi of Jerusalem is forced to use his scholarly skills to solve a murder.
28 CE. Herod Antipas is king of Israel, but the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate wields a great deal of power. When a servant girl is found dead in a palace pool, Pilate forces Rabban Gamaliel to investigate. Deaths and scandal are nothing new to the royal family, who are wholly divorced from the lives of common people, many of whom turn to itinerant preachers like Jesus of Nazareth. Gamaliel finds the girl, raped and with her throat cut, in a bloody pool which, when drained, contains a few possible clues: a pendant, several coins, some pieces of clothing and a distinctive knife. Both the physician Loukas and the goldsmith Agon are a big help in uncovering some of the mysteries the clues present. Under the crude pendant is a second, golden one with writing on it. Gamaliel soon realizes that the girl is far more than a mere servant. She arrived at court with the Queen and her daughter Salome, and it’s clear that political intrigue swirls around her death. The knife, too dull to kill, belongs to the king’s old friend Menahem, whom the queen would be happy to blame for the murder. But the rabbi is far more scrupulous even though he has only a short time to solve the murder before returning to his job of teacher of The Law.
The intriguing mystery, packed with historical detail, is quite a departure from the Ike Schwartz series (Rogue, 2011, etc.). Ramsay, a retired Episcopal priest who’s spent a good deal of time in Jerusalem, provides insight into what it must have been like in the time of Jesus.