Ten Years Gone #1 - a historical mystery
Ten Years Gone #1 by Jonathan Dunsky
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Published 2017; 346 pages
This book was gifted to me by the author with a request for a review. The opinions here are my own. This is the first book in a private investigator series featuring Adam Lapid and taking place in 1949 Tel Aviv, Israel.
First Sentence: "The nightmare tore me out of sleep before dawn. I opened my eyes but all I could see were fragments of the dream. Barbed-wire fences and watchtowers."
This well crafted story is about Investigator Adam Lapid who is a Hungarian Jew that survived the Holocaust, but his wife and daughters did not. He served time in Israel's war so has a soldier's skills and a burning hatred of Germany and of people who intimidate or hurt others.
Adam is hired by a recent refugee to Tel Aviv to find her son, an infant she gave up ten years ago to keep safe. Ten years is a long time to try to find a missing person, revive people's memories, or even know where to look. Some nudging here and pushing there gets him enough answers to despair that he'll never find the child alive. But because he'd lost his own children, Adam is determined to find out what happened to the baby and levy justice on whomever is involved.
"That was the soundtrack of Tel Aviv, a cocktail of languages and dialects and accents all pouring past and into each other."
Told in first person, we learn of the depths of Adam's grief over the loss of his family, the anger he harbors that's never far from the surface, his low tolerance for injustice, and his merciless way of dealing with it. Ten Years Gone introduces some of the political turmoil in Israel in the 1940s though it is not the primary focus of the story. Although it is definitely an investigation, and Adam is dogged about the investigation, it also feels more like a character study of people who have been deeply scarred by war and even by the brokenness of their newly formed country.
Adam is a damaged character, mourning the loss of his wife & daughters in Auschwitz, and he has a heightened sense of justice for those who aren't able to help themselves. The complexities make for a more interesting protagonist.
I found it interesting that Dunsky is very specific in describing every character in the book. The detail really helped me visualize the person - more than just tall and slim, or an age, or whatever. He's explicit and clear about what they each look like.
"She had a face made for beaming, youthful and smooth and innocent, framed by a shower of brown curls. The smile dug dimples in her plump rosy cheeks and made her light brown eyes sparkle. She had a pert nose and a small pink mouth set in the middle of a round face. She reminded me of pictures of fairies in one of the children's books I had read for my daughters. She was five two and bosomy in a blue housedress with red dots. She was barefoot. Her feet were tiny. If not for the onset of laugh lines at the corners of her eyes and mouth, she might have been mistaken for a buxom fifteen year old. Her age, I knew from the police report, was thirty."
See what I mean? Detailed!
This is a solid story. The plot moves steadily along as Adam continues to back track ten years and try to find people who knew Esther, the woman who was protecting the baby. There are twists and turns - some with the case, but also the good old standards of infidelity and jealousy - but the biggest twist at the end was a bit of a surprise to me. I liked the characters and learning a bit about Israel in the 1940s.
Whether you lean toward preferring historical fiction or mysteries, you'll enjoy this book because it has a great balance of both. Try it - hope you'll like it.
Historical Reading: 1/15
Cloak and Dagger: 1/36+
COYER 1st semester: 2
Literary Escape bonus (country): Israel