Book: Murder, Jaz, & Tel Aviv (2009) by Kate McVaugh
Murder, Jaz, & Tel Aviv is not a new book, but Kate McVaugh, who also blogs about her real life adventures, has recently self-published a sequel. You can find the original in paper back or digital versions at Amazon.com. The new book, Jaz, Tall Men, & Mayhem (A Jazmine Davidson Adventure), is available only in digital. ( UPDATE: Kate’s newest book, in e-form is now available–The Many Wonders of Costa Contente. This is a departure from the Jaz series.)
So here I am again reviewing a self-published book after swearing off of them because of many disappointments. However, McVaugh’s book has languished on my shelf for a year before I got around to it, and after I read it, I decided that once in a while, self-published books are worth taking a look at. If you are a self-published author, please don’t take this as encouragement. I knew McVaugh on line and warned her that the likelihood of a review was slim. However, she surprised me with this light-weight comic mystery.
Murder, Jaz & Tel Aviv is kind of noir light –making it gris [gray] ,I suppose. The author has clearly been influenced by the Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett’s hard-boiled mysteries. She has breathed a new life into the genre by setting it in Israel, with a female American ex-pat as the key character rather than the rumpled middle-aged P.I. And instead of a beautiful blond draped over the desk of the private detective’s office, we see a switch up to handsome hunks policeman. Otherwise, the language, the gritty setting in low-down bars, the combination of boldness and bad luck that stalk the heroes, and the involvement of some very colorful characters closely mimics the originators of this genre. For all their seriousness, Chandler and writers like Mickey Spillane could have you rolling on the floor laughing at the clever comebacks of their heroes.
The book (and presumably its sequel, which I have not read yet) will appeal to travelers for the picture McVaugh paints of real life in Tel Aviv and its surroundings. This is no tourist Israel, but the place where an American with a low paying job struggles to rent over-priced apartments and to figure out the squiggles of the Hebraic alphabet. Still, she lives two blocks from the Mediterranean, she frequently reminds herself.
My brief view of Tel Aviv when we visited Israel, included a walk along the beach and drinks in the posh lobby of a seaside hotel. Jaz, short for Jazmine, proclaims Tel Aviv a safe city where she does not fear to walk at night –that is, before the mobsters get after her. But, frankly, it seemed boring to us and we could not wait to get back into the countryside and into magical Jerusalem. So it is interesting to read a book set in this more bland and bureaucratic city rather than the historic and appealing old city of Jerusalem.
The print version of Murder, Jaz, & Tel Aviv, looks sharper than most self-published books, and seems better edited. There are a few scattered typos, but not nearly as many as I’ve come to expect in self-published–no more than show up in books from the finest publishing houses. There are some marks of this being a first novel. The dialogue is sharp and witty, but sometimes the naiveté of the 30-year-old Jewish visitor is a little hard to believe. Surely she would make some effort to learn Hebrew and surely she would know better than to stereotype the residents of a kibbutz. But these were minor points. You don’t take this book very seriously. You just go along for the romp which sometimes gets pretty suspenseful.
Note: Click on the photographs for more information on the photographer. The book was provided to me for review by the author. My opinions are still mine. Links to Amazon are affiliate links, which means that when you shop through these links, you are helping A Traveler’s Library pay the rent. Thanks for your support.