by Liad Shoham
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Moving, Haunting, and Gripping -
The basic premise of the book is fairly common - An eager young detective, determined to solve her first case digs into a homicide that's cut and dry as far as the commanders are concerned. Doing so unveils a dark, seedy underworld where friends and foes aren't so easily discernible...and crossing the latter often has deadly consequences. But, Liad Shoham's whodunnit/mystery/thriller builds upon that basic story line, layer upon layer - with fluid characters that are so sharply drawn they could be used as weapons. For example, Anat, the young, detective is strong, she has to be to hold her own in the male dominated, testosterone environment of the police department. However, she's not the loud, outspoken, in your face type of strong - she tends to let her intelligence, work ethic and tenacity demonstrate her strength. She's also very sensitive, which can be a double edged sword in her line of work, yet, in this setting, the author interlaces Anat's strength and heart beautifully.
Immigration is a hot button, difficult topic, regardless of location. The manner in which Shoham reveals the dark, frightening, and often criminal aspects of this human crisis is haunting. There are so many seedy types just waiting to take advantage of immigrants and more often than not, they are afraid to call the police. These stories were both heart breaking and eye opening. But, the heavy heartedness is broken up by wise-cracking Jewish parents, giving their kids, (30ish kids that is) a hard row to hoe.
I said, the basic story outline here is common - it's what Liad Shoham does with that outline that makes this book anything but. There's a lot going on in Asylum City, the author weaves the plots and subplots together seamlessly. When the killer's identity was finally revealed, I have to say I was surprised. Shoham does a really good job of setting the scene, then populating it with deep, interesting characters. The only draw back (for me) was the dialogue moving to various characters. I felt this slowed the progress of the story...and made it feel chopped up or chunky at times. That said, this was a good read. I really like Anat. I felt like I got in on the ground floor and have a chance to watch her growth as a detective, as well as, her personal life. We saw glimpses and hints of a romantic relationship, I hope the author continues to flesh this out...it may or may not work out. I just hope Liad Shoham writes this character again...I look forward to reading what happens next.