Here's another of my posts from Book Babe. I copied my review for Invisible City to this blog. This is the sequel. I also thought that I had some information in this review that needs to be spread far and wide.
I reviewed the debut mystery Invisible City by Julia Dahl on Book Babe.
It took place in the hasidic community of New York who call themselves
haredi. I said in my review of the first book that I wasn't that
impressed with the journalist protagonist Rebekah Roberts, and that I
wished that I was reading the story of Aviva Kagan, Rebekah's mother.
Well, I got that wish. The sequel, Run You Down, alternates between the perspectives of Rebekah and Aviva.
book is full of tragedy, but you could almost call the murder that
Rebekah is investigating a poignant footnote to the heart-rending story
of Rebekah's uncle, Samuel Kagan. Sam is the dramatic center of the
book. I was very sorry for Sam. I understood that he was largely
shaped by PTSD, and that his trauma motivated his behavior. At the
same time, it was hard to view him as a sympathetic character because
some of his actions were so shockingly unthinkable.
was an important character, but largely secondary within the plot. Her
self-punishing guilt kept her away from the people she cared about
most. Yet Aviva was really a victim of her upbringing. As much as
she tried to combat it, being a member of the haredi community was too
much a part of her.
Dov Lowenstein, a disaffected ex-haredi who appears briefly in Run You Down,
calls the haredi a cult. This would explain why Aviva and others found
it so difficult to leave. What is the definition of a cult? Neopagan
author Isaac Bonewits developed a Cult Danger Evaluation Frame originally published in his book, Real Magic.
Its original purpose was to allow Neopagans to determine whether any
particular religious group that they might come across was a dangerous
cult. If a group's practices involves a high number of the
characteristics that Bonewits listed, it's best to stay far away from
it. It is possible to conclude from what is written about the haredi in
Julia Dahl's books that they are a cult. Others might maintain that
they preserve traditions, and are a source of social cohesion for their
I thought that Rebekah improved in this
book, but she may be too vulnerable to be a successful journalist. The
ugliness of the crimes that she has investigated disturbs her very
deeply. At one point in this novel she reminds herself that being a
reporter is what she aspired to do, but then comments "Maybe one day
living my dream won't make me feel sick."
Run You Down is
a powerful piece of fiction. It also completes the Rebekah and Aviva
character arc. So if Julia Dahl continues with the series, she will
need to find a new direction for Rebekah. Perhaps additional
professional training would be advisable for this character.