Asylum City

By Liad Shoham

Harper Collins, 2014, 324 pages

ISBN 978-0-06-223753-8

Cost $19.25

            This is the second Liad Shoham crime novel that I read. The first was Lineup. I enjoyed both. Shoham’s novels have fascinating fast moving plots with interesting well-drawn characters. The crimes and detections take place in Israel and have an exotic flavor. Shoham is a practicing attorney and knows his craft and the crimes he describes. He wrote six critically acclaimed crime novels and is Israel’s leading crime writer. This novel, as Lineup, was translated from Hebrew into fluent and engrossing English by Sara Kitai.

The story focuses on the murder of a young female social activist in Tel Aviv, Michal. She was an overactive member of an organization that aids Africans that escape the brutal murders in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Michal tried to help the African refugees generally and individually. One of those she helped was Gabriel who she saw has artistic talents.

She faults the way many Israelis treat these refugees and publicizes her views, creating enemies. Among the angry is a minister of parliament who opposes the kind treatment that Israel gives these refugees. Another is an Assistant States Attorney, a protégé of the minister whose job is to plead in court for the expulsion of the Africans back to Ethiopia or Eritrea. Michal wrote to the Bar Association claiming that the ASA hid information from the court which resulted in an African man being expelled to Africa where he was murdered. The ASA remembers that on the night of Michal’s murder he was banging on her door asking her to cease her campaign against him. He recalls nothing after this until waking the next morning in his bed, his face covered with bruises. He does not know if he killed Michal.

Many people take advantage of the African problem. One is a crime boss who makes millions lending money to needy refugees. Michal is trying to stop his activities. He told his thugs to beat up Michal to stop her speaking about his people.

Bedouins take money from fleeing Africans to lead them from Africa through the Sinai into Israel. However, once the African is in Sinai they demand more money to continue. What is worse, they kidnap many of the young African women and make them sex slaves. Two of the many Africans that the Bedouins transported were Gabriel and his sister. They kidnaped Gabriel’s sister and turned her into a sex slave.

After months when the sister was sick, the Bedouins offered to release Gabriel’s sister if he pays 25,000 shekels, an enormous amount of money. Gabriel went to Michal’s house to ask her for help and found her dead. He is charged with her murder.

A young police woman is assigned to investigate the murder. This is her first case. She thinks Gabriel is innocent, although for reasons she is unable to understand, he confessed to the murder. Her bosses place enormous pressure on her to end the case and have Gabriel convicted.

Shoham describes each of these people and the events in a suspenseful manner so that they become almost unforgettable.