Fourth in a series of popular, intellectually challenging mysteries from acclaimed Israeli author Batya Gur, Murder Duet features once again the smart, charming, and lonely police officer Michael Ohayon. After his cellist friend's father and brother--who are also well-known musicians--are brutally murdered, Ohayon, a classical music afficionado, sets out to solve the crime. From the opening pages, where the detective plays a compact disc of Brahm's First Symphony, to the newly discovered music for an unknown Vivaldi requiem that provides a rock-solid motive for the crime, lovers of crime novels, as well as music, will thrill to every dulcet note.
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Batya Gur (1947-2005) lived in Jerusalem, where she was a literary critic for Haaretz, Israel's most prestigious paper. She earned her master's in Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and she also taught literature for nearly twenty years.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
As he put the compact disc into the player and pressed the button, it seemed to Michael Ohayon that he heard a tiny cry. It hovered in the air and went away. He didn't pay too much attention to it, but went on standing where he was, next to the bookcase, looking at but not yet actually reading the liner notes accompanying the recording. He wondered absently whether to shatter, with the ominous opening chord for full orchestra, with pounding timpani, the holiday-eve calm. It was the twilight hour at summer's end, when the air was beginning to cool and clear. He reflected that it was a moot point whether a man called on music to wake sleeping worlds within him. Or whether he sought in it a great echo for his conscious feeling, or listened to it in order to create a particular mood when he himself was steeped in fog and emptiness, when it only seemed that this holiday-eve calm embraced him, too. If that was so, he thought, he wouldn't have chosen this particular work, which was worlds removed from the holiday-eve quiet in Jerusalem.
The city had changed greatly since he had come here, as a boy to attend a boarding school for gifted pupils. He had seen it transformed from a closed, withdrawn, austere, provincial place into a city pretending to be a metropolis. Its narrow streets were jammed with lines of cars, their impatient drivers shouting and impotently shaking their fists. Yet he was moved time and again to see how even now, on every holiday eve (especially Rosh Hashanah, Passover, and Shavuoth, but also on Friday evenings and if only for a few hours, until darkness fell), sudden peace and quiet would reign, utter calm after all the commotion and vociferousness.
So complete was the calm before the music spread through the room, so absolute the stillness, that it was as if someone bad taken a deep breath before that first note, held up a baton, and imposed silence on the world. Instantly the nervous, darting, driven looks of the people in the long lines at the ringing supermarket cash registers vanished from his mind. He forgot the anxious expressions on the faces of the harried people hurrying across Jaffa Road with plastic bags and carefully clasping gift basket. They had to make their way between rows of cars with engines running, whose drivers stuck their heads out the windows to see what was holding up traffic this time. All this was now silenced and effaced.
At about four o'clock the car horns and the roar of the engines fell silent. The world grew calm and tranquil, reminding Michael of his childhood, of his mother's house and of the Friday evenings when he came home from boarding school.
When the stillness descended on holiday eves, he again saw before him his mother's shining face. He saw her biting her lower lip to disguise her agitation as she stood at the window waiting for her youngest child. She had allowed him, despite her husband's death and although he was last of her children still with her, to leave home. He returned only every other week for a short weekend, and for holidays. On Friday evenings and holiday eves, he made his way by foot along the path at the back of the hill from the last stop of the last bus to the street at the edge of the village. People, bathed and dressed in clean clothes, relaxed in their houses secure in anticipation of the holiday. The stillness of the hour would hold out its gentle arms to him as he climbed the narrow street toward the gray house on the fringe of the little neighborhood.
Outside the ground-floor apartment Michael had been living in for some years now, all was quiet, too. You had to go down a few steps to enter it, and to stand in the living room and look through the big glass doors leading to the narrow balcony in order to discover the hills opposite and the religious women's teachers college curving like a white snake in order to realize that it wasn't a basement apartment but had been built on the steep slope of a hill.
The voices of the apartment building's children who had been called inside died down. Even the cello up above, which for several days now he had been hearing playing scales at length and then in a Bach suite, was silent. Only a few cars drove past on the winding street at which he now looked, as he unthinkingly pressed the CD player's button. His hands had preceded his conscious mind and doubts. His act caused the loud unison opening of Brahms's First Symphony to fill the room. In a moment what now appeared to be the illusion of peaceful harmony which he imagined he had succeeded in achieving within himself after long days of restless disorientation had disappeared.
For with the very first tense orchestral sound, a great new disquiet began to awaken and well up inside him. Streams of small anxieties, forgotten distresses, made their way from his stomach to his throat. He looked up at the damp stains on the kitchen ceiling. They were growing bigger from day to day, and changing from a dirty white to a gray-black wetness. From this sight, which pressed down on him like a lump of lead, it was a short way to thought and words. For these stains required an urgent appeal to his upstairs neighbors, a talk with the tall, bleary-eyed, carelessly dressed woman.
Two weeks ago he had knocked on her door. She had a squirming, screaming baby in her arms, and she gently patted its back and rocked it as she stood in the doorway facing Michael.
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