Run You Down by Julia Dahl

Julia Dahl’s latest and second novel which centers on the Ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish neighborhoods and people in the New York area, Run You Down, is just as eye opening and well written as her first, Invisible City. Our protagonist is a  Jewish reporter raised by a Christian dad after her Jewish mother left them, who unknowingly gets embroiled in murders in this very closed and secretive 23014620community. As Rebekah learns about Hasidic Jewish customs and life, so does the reader.

Rebekah’s missing mother tells her tale in alternating chapters as her daughter runs around New York trying to solve the mystery of a woman who may or may not have been murdered. It seems everyone from the police to the Jewish community have closed ranks to keep the truth from coming to light.

The main character, Rebekah, is young and suffering from depression and anxiety. She constantly questions herself. So much so that often I wanted to yell at her to knock it off and get serious about what was going on — just as I would for any 25 year old woman going through these life changing events. Dahl writes real characters involved in very interesting times. This mystery has it all — plot, setting and well-done characters.

My rating 5 of 5.

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Night Life by David Taylor

New York City, 1954 – this is where David Taylor takes us in his first novel, Night Life. A Noir mystery that gives us great plot that balances well with character and setting. We get some really fun reality-based characters such as Roy Cohn and even a bit part from J. Edgar Hoover because this is the Commie-witch hunt 1950’s. Part spy novel, part mystery, part historical fiction, this is a first class mystery.

Seldom do I find a book that captures me like this novel did. Our cop hero, Michael Cassidy, is the son of a Russian immigrant who now is a famous Broadway producer. He is a heavy drinking, not much talking detective who is a throwback to the Noir PIs of old, except that in Night Life the beautiful women aren’t bimbos but rather intelligent characters who help move the story along.

When a Broadway dancer is found tortured to death in his Hell’s Kitchen apartment that has been ransacked, Cassidy, the CIA, the FBI and the mob are all on the hunt for something that the killer wanted. The FBI and the CIA were battling out power and boundaries during the 50’s, and Taylor catches the feel of the times.

The book is not overly violent like many Noir crime stories, nor does it portray Cassidy as excessively hard-edged. While I do like Noir mysteries, even those who do not will like the balance of this novel. The story is engrossing and the dialogue believable—a detailed and complex book about NYC and the Red Scare in the early 1950’s. There is even some well-needed humor with Cassidy’s loyal partner, Orso, who often reminds Cassidy that he threw a dirty cop out a window – thus making Cassidy one of the only honest cops in NYC.

There is a bit of a cinematic quality to the book since Taylor used to write for television and movies in Hollywood. But this just means that the story moves along and the reader gets a first class ride for their money. A second Michael Cassidy book will be published on April 1, 2016.

My rating is 5 out of 5