A Beautiful Death
By S.T. Haymon
223 pages, St. Martin's, $19.95
Literary Murder: A Critical Case
By Batya Gur
357 pages, HarperCollins, $20
ISRAELI CHARACTERS play prominent roles in two new mystery novels, although one is a British detective story set in England and Ireland. The other is set, naturally enough, in Israel.
Fans of S.T. Haymon's long-running series of mysteries featuring Detective Inspector Ben Jurnet should brace themselves for a shock in the first chapter of "A Beautiful Death."
Jurnet is sleeping late after working on a difficult case, so his lover, the beautiful Miriam Courland, decides to let him sleep instead of driving her to the airport to meet someone arriving from Israel. Her car is in the shop for repairs, so she decides to take his car. That decision is her death warrant.
The massive explosion that kills her, destroys the car and damages Jurnet's apartment building is found to have been caused by a plastic explosive often used by terrorists. Since an Irish family lives in the apartment beneath Jurnet, IRA terrorists are immediately suspected as the bombers who had Jurnet as their intended target.
When a young Irishman who has been living with the family flees to Ireland, Jurnet agrees to go there and track him down. Numb with grief, he is glad for any excuse to leave surroundings that will remind him of his lost love.
However, before leaving, he meets two people who had worked closely with Miriam in a workshop for disabled people she had founded in Israel. One is a young crippled woman, Pnina Benvista, and the other an older man, Rafi Galil, who was business manager of the workshop operation. Both have come to England to work with Miriam in the workshop's British branch.