Regret being a womanizer

Gerald Szyszkowitz: Murder at the Western Wall.

Vienna, Klosterneuburg: Edition Va Bene, 1999.
183 pp., Hardcover; öS 248, -.
ISBN 3-85167-059-0.

Link to the reading sample

Ari Schwartz is dead.
His assassination barely makes headlines. Occupational risk, the colleagues wave away. Ari Schwartz was the American foreign correspondent in Israel. He worked for CNN; and it is well known that the journalists of this news channel have to get as close as possible to the epicentres of the disasters. Ari Schwartz was professional, tried and tested; he was also a womanizer. His demise is generally regretted, but he is ultimately replaceable.

So begins, briefly sketched, "Murder before the Western Wall", the new novel by the prolific Gerald Szyszkowitz. Of course, the news man's death still has to be cleared up. So the author invents a tough nose, Nadja Assad, colleague and Ari Schwartz 'a little wistful platonic friend. She should and will solve the case. The novel, with its crime story and suspense, develops rapidly. All kinds of motives emerge, private, but above all religious and political. Nobody has an alibi; they all get caught in the crosshairs.

Gerald Szyszkowitz has chosen a special setting for his murder case. Ari Schwartz doesn't breath his life out anywhere - he dies in Jerusalem in front of the Western Wall, in spite of God. The setting, the religious and political unrest in Israel are of decisive importance for "Murder at the Wailing Wall", since the author is only able to characterize his characters poorly. Nadja Assad in particular is a pale figure compared to the classic snoopers. She is attractive, after all. Your way of life is also politically correct; it stands for reconciliation instead of hatred, and is certainly right, but in literature, as here, too, the right often seems a little boring.
The elements of tension revolve around the more colorful elements in Szyszkowitz's novel, such as the ultra-Orthodox student Sami Adany, a mission-conscious fanatic, the transsexual singer Dinah Benares, the second murder victim, or Grit Margalit from the foreign correspondents' office in Tel Aviv, whose erotic life turned out to be quite complicated, as besides her liaison with the CNN reporter she also had a relationship with Sami Adany; there is also much rumor about a conspiratorial meeting between representatives of the Islamic jihad and the Palestinian Hamas in Gaza, at which Ari Schwartz was present; religious fanaticism condenses more and more into a motive for crime.

"Murder on the Wailing Wall" is straightforward reading material; the book provides good solid entertainment. Occasionally, while reading, the thought crept in as to what Philip Marlowe would have made of the case; but such a game of thought is ultimately pointless. Gerald Szyszkowitz tells his crime novel in a routine and exciting way. The story arc tends to come to an end at the correct point in time, Szyszkowitz finds the culprit in the home straight. And the killer's name is ...
surprising, but not illogical.

Anne M. Zauner
October 20, 1999