I’ve been meaning to post about D.A. Mishani’s The Missing File for several months now, but hadn’t quite figured out what to say. At first, I was looking around for another book to pair it with, in particular another mystery in translation because except for Sweden we don’t seem to get many mysteries from other countries around these parts. But I could never find the right match, so now I’ll post it all by itself.
I don’t read Hebrew, so I have no idea whether the translation here is faithful to its source, but the prose from Cohen, the translator, is excellent and haunting, and the novel is quite impressive. As I say in my review, one of Mishani’s cleverest tactics is to show his detective, Avraham Avraham watching Law and Order episodes and reading Agatha Christie novels and proving to himself that these fictional detectives got the wrong man–a habit which hints that Mishani’s own mystery will be something more than run-of-the-mill. (I couldn’t help but think of a fabulous little book called Who Killed Roger Ackroyd? by Pierre Bayard [New Press, 2000], which takes one of Christie’s most famous novels, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and “proves” that Poirot got the solution wrong). Indeed, astute mystery fans will notice that he almost precisely copies a narrative trick from Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders to great effect.
Beyond this cleverness, The Missing File delves deeply into the psychology of its detective, probing the doubt and frustration that must plague all investigators but too rarely is shown at any length in police procedurals. For teens who have read or watched a lot of procedurals, this novel should satisfy their expectations at the same time that it challenges a few of their assumptions.As The Missing File is the first in a projected series featuring Detective Avraham, we can only hope that the next novel (due on these shores in June 2014) will be as smart as this one.
MISHANI, D. A. The Missing File. tr. from Hebrew by Steve Cohen. 304p. HarperCollins/Harper. Apr. 2013. Tr $25.99. ISBN 9780062195371.
Adult/High School–In this debut, the first in a projected series, Mishani shows himself to be an apt pupil of detective fiction. The story opens with detective Avraham Avraham explaining to a mother that he knows her missing son will turn up for the same reason he knows why there are no detective novels in Hebrew: Israel simply doesn’t have the types of lurid crimes those novels feature. Needless to say, Avraham is soon proven wrong when Ofer never returns. Wracked by guilt, Avraham has difficulty concentrating on solving the crime rather than his own mistakes, especially as a pair of younger investigators are brought in on the case. Meanwhile, Mishani introduces readers to Ze’ev, Ofer’s neighbor and former tutor, who seems to know more than he should about the case, and is intent on weaseling himself into Avraham’s good graces. Mishani’s prose moves with the same contemplative yet steadily forward motion as Swedish crime novelists like Sjöwall and Wahlöö or Henning Mankell. And while Avraham does eventually solve the case of Ofer’s disappearance, his habit of watching old Law and Order episodes and reading Agatha Christie novels in order to prove the detectives’ solutions wrong should be a clue to readers that there is more to this mystery than meets the eye.–Mark Flowers, John F. Kennedy, Vallejo, CA