Holy Smoke: A Jerusalem Mystery

Frederick Ramsay, Author
Frederick Ramsay. Poisoned Pen, $24.95 (260p) ISBN 978-1-4642-0092-2
Reviewed on: 12/10/2012
Release date: 02/01/2013
Ramsay’s entertaining second Jerusalem mystery set in the first century C.E. (after 2012’s The Eighth Veil) finds Rabban Gamliel, the chief rabbi of Israel, drawn once again into a murder case against his will. When a burnt corpse surfaces at the Holy of Holies in the temple, some of the devout believe that the victim was consumed by divine fire for daring to enter the sacred site. But Gamliel is unconvinced, as is the Greek leader, Loukas, especially since the burn marks don’t cover the entire body. With high priest Caiaphas incensed by the growing popularity of a certain messianic figure, there’s enough political turmoil in the city to make detecting almost impossible. While the prose, plotting, and characterization may fall short of the best in the historical subgenre, Ramsay earns high marks for the series’ premise. Readers should be prepared for the occasional anachronism, such as Loukas’s exposition of a Schrodinger’s Cat–like phenomenon. (Feb.)