"All the walls had been tattooed with one vicious slogan after another, each derogatory, each advocating different ways to exterminate Jews. So many swastikas, it could have been a wallpaper pattern. Eggs and ketchup had been thrown against the plaster, leaving behind vitreous splotches. But the walls weren't the worst part, minor compared to the holy books that had been torn and shredded and strewn across the floor. And even the sacrilege of the religious tomes and prayer books wasn't as bad as the horrific photographs of concentration-camp victims that lay atop the ruined Hebrew texts. She averted her eyes but had already seen too much --- ghastly black and white snapshots depicting individual bodies with tortured faces and gaping mouths. Some were clothed, some nude."
This is the scene Rina Lazarus Decker sees as she walks into her community's small storefront synagogue, after being called there by local police. To the average human being, the scene would be horrifying, but to Rina, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, the destruction is even more devastating. Who would do such a thing, and why? Hate crimes had shocked the Jewish community in the past, but this time it felt more personal. When her husband Peter arrives on the scene a short time later, he must do double duty --- comfort and reassure his wife and community, and spearhead the investigation to discover who tried to destroy the small synagogue.
A teenage boy is soon brought into custody. Ernesto Golding is the son of wealthy L. A. professionals and attends an elite private school. Although there is no proof, it is believed that one of his grandfathers was Jewish and immigrated before or during the Nazi occupation of Poland. The idea that someone of Jewish descent could perpetrate such a crime stuns everyone, but Ernesto confesses to the crime, swears he acted alone, and cuts a deal with the DA. He performs community service, gets counseling and is on probation, but does not have to serve any prison time.
Peter, however, continues to suspect that Ernesto did not act alone and maintains contact with the boy. His suspicions are confirmed six months later when Ernesto and his therapist, Dr. Mervin Baldwin, are killed. They had been spending a week at Baldwin's survival camp for troubled teens, but other than shadows late at night, none of the other boys saw or heard anything. As other key suspects are killed, Decker and his team must identify and arrest the criminal mind responsible.
Faye Kellerman brings a great deal of baggage to this latest novel, alluding frequently to events that have occurred in previous Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus mysteries; and if THE FORGOTTEN is the first Kellerman novel the reader picks up, they will at times be puzzled or confused by these references. However, for anyone who has read the previous 12 mysteries, it will feel like sharing memories with a friend. Kellerman also includes a fair amount of basic Orthodox Judaism, usually explaining a Yiddish or Hebrew phrase spoken by Rina or her 17-year-old son Jacob by having Peter repeat it in English. To anyone with a Jewish background, this might seem redundant, but it is very helpful to those unfamiliar with Orthodox Judaism.
At times the couple's interactions and problems have kept me interested, especially as Peter adopted and adapted to his wife's Orthodox Judaism. Other times, I continued to read just because I am a fan and can enjoy reading a book just for the pleasure of reading. THE FORGOTTEN falls into the first category.
Reviewed by Debbie Ann Weiner on January 22, 2011