Lev Raphael, Author . Leapfrog $14.95 (200p) ISBN 978-0-9679520-0-0

Raphael applies his talents as a suspense writer (he is the author of five mystery novels in addition to the short story collection Dancing on Tisha B'Av) to this unconventional Holocaust novel, a family drama about the upheaval caused by a million-dollar legacy of German reparations money. The passive, introspective narrator, Paul Menkus, is a 42-year-old Michigan librarian who travels home to Manhattan after a heart attack claims his mother, Rose, a Holocaust survivor. He's the sole heir of her reparations-based fortune, which brings him into conflict with his younger siblings, underachieving, bisexual Simon and beautiful but difficult Dina, whose marriage is failing. Rose was in good health when she died, and Paul's inquiries into her death provide an element of suspense. The family interactions range from turgid to poignant, but overall Raphael successfully captures the family dynamic. He also adds narrative momentum with a romantic subplot (Paul reunites with old flame Valerie, a Holocaust memoirist who stayed close to the family after the couple's postcollege breakup). But Paul's mother remains an underdeveloped, shadowy figure, and the specifics of her Holocaust experiences are only sketchily outlined in the closing chapters. The climax, which hinges on a revelation delivered by a seemingly sweet elderly neighbor who played a pivotal role in Rose's demise, is rushed and farfetched. Raphael never quite delivers on the potential of his premise, but the sharpness of the family portrait and the appeal of the romantic subplot make this an engaging read. 15-city author tour.(Sept.)

Reviewed on: 09/22/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 200 pages - 978-0-7145-3099-4
Ebook - 212 pages - 978-0-9796415-5-8
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