Picks and Pans Review: The Butcher's Theater

updated 07/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/11/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Jonathan Kellerman

When 70-year-old watchman Yaakov Schlesinger, nearing the end of his tedious night patrol, identifies the object abandoned on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives, he reels back, turns his head and vomits. Soon, police inspector Daniel Sharavi is on the trail of a serial killer whose gruesome attraction to Arab women turns up the heat under the city's always simmering political tensions. Though this is the first Kellerman mystery novel not to feature his psychologist sleuth, Alex Delaware, there is plenty of psychoanalysis, as the killer's stomach-turning past is revealed even while Sharavi is trying to trap him. More striking, however, are Kellerman's evocations of the Holy City and its intricate social order. Then, too, the Yemenite cop Daniel Sharavi is a far more developed character than Delaware. Sharavi is an outsider whose stubborn adherence to his own values puts him in the classic mold of mystery heroes. By teaming him with a black American—a Los Angeles cop he met during special terrorist assignment—Kellerman also pulls off some interesting cultural comparisons. This is an unsettling, provocative novel, more memorable for its lush descriptions and thoughtful protagonists than for the mystery—and pornographically violent crimes—at its core. (Bantam, $19.95)

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