It isn't the fact that NOW YOU SEE ME... by Rochelle Krich is her best novel to date that makes it noteworthy, though certainly this would be enough for her fan base, which has been quietly and exponentially growing. What makes this latest installment in Krich's Molly Blume series worthy of comment is that its many strengths render it one of this year's best mystery novels.
It begins with a disappearance that is voluntary but then leads to a death --- which may be accidental, or a murder, or self-defense --- framed against a religious and cultural backdrop that causes an incidental impediment of the investigation. The result is an intriguing, engrossing, and even enchanting tale magnificently and beautifully told.
Blume is an orthodox Jew, a reporter and semi-successful author of true crime books who balances her writing career with her duties as a rabbi's wife. NOW YOU SEE ME... begins with Blume taking notice of an apparent fan who attends three of her book signings consecutively. At first she believes that he's a stalker, but then learns that he needs a favor. Reuben Jastrow informs Blume that his daughter, Hadassah, has run away from home with a man who she met on the Internet. Jastrow is concerned that this incident will ruin not only Hadassah's reputation, but also that of her older sister and their entire family.
Blume agrees. But there are difficulties. Hadassah is 18, and in the eyes of the law is of age to do as she wishes. An even bigger problem, however, is that Blume has not been told the entire truth about Hadassah. The truth indirectly involves an incident in Blume's past, one that makes her hesitant to involve herself in Hadassah's disappearance yet ultimately causes her to interject herself into the matter. There is a built-in time bomb, if you will, that makes the discovery of Hadassah's whereabouts within a few days imperative, one that creates a remarkable tension that by itself makes this book worth reading.
When Hadassah finally reappears, it seems that the matter is settled. Subsequently, however, an apparent suicide victim is tied to Hadassah's disappearance; and when it is discovered that the man is actually a murder victim, Hadassah, her father, her other relatives, and even Blume herself are prime suspects. The ultimate key to the entire mystery is shrouded in the past, in matters almost (but not quite) forgotten by those involved, demonstrating that the errors and omissions of the past generation are often visited upon the present.
There is a subtle but constant interplay between tradition and modernity in NOW YOU SEE ME... Krich does not make judgments here; keeping true to the traditions of Jewish orthodoxy is no doubt difficult, particularly given the temptations inherent in this world. Yet there is a comfort in ritual and belief, and the underlying reasons therefore, that shine through in the Blume novels in general and this one in particular.
Krich also deserves kudos for including an extensive glossary of Hebrew and Yiddish words; while readers can discern the meanings of many terms from context, the glossary at times is a comfort indeed. But it is the story, and the telling, that make NOW YOU SEE ME... a winner. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 13, 2011