In another month or so, my murdery mystery, Style and the Solitary, will be republished under the Ocelot Press banner.
I thought this would be a good time to tell you what the novel is about, tweaking a post I first wrote for friend and author, Jo Fenton.
Belief in Another Person
The story of Beauty and the Beast was first written in 1740 by a woman called Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. It wasn’t intended as a children’s fairy tale, but rather as a tale with a moral. It is Beauty’s belief and love for the Beast that turns him back into a prince. Similarly, Nathalie’s belief in Asaf will help him in his attempt to become the person he was meant to be.
The similarity of my novel to Beauty and the Beast is, of course, the reason for its similar title.
People who shun society are considered strange by the rest of society. Sometimes, they might even be thought dangerous, due to a tiny minority of loners who have turned to violence. This gives vulnerable people, who probably only chose to live their lives alone because of bad experiences, less of a chance of ever returning to society.
We all need the help of friends. Nathalie gets her two flatmates on board to help her solve the mystery. Other friendships crop up in the story. Even Asaf, the “loner”, acquires some friends, eventually.
The process of fitting into a new place can be long and difficult, especially when it involves a new language and culture. Nathalie has some advantages. She’s young, sociable and good at languages. Still, she struggles sometimes, and also misses her family and her home town of Strasbourg. Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market brings a bit of France to her.
The Law and its Failures
I was moved by a documentary I heard once, in which a woman wanted to testify against her rapist, but found herself struck dumb when standing in the witness box. Asaf is similarly worried about being tried in a court of law. He thinks he’ll find himself incapable of answering questions in such a setting. He’s probably right.
I do think laws fail to protect those who can’t speak or who freeze in certain situations.
Why is the setting a theme? When I wrote my first novel set in Jerusalem (Neither Here Nor There, currently unavailable), I was worried people wouldn’t be interested in it because they’d expect a story set in Israel to include war and conflict. I was glad to be proved wrong; the book sold well and was appreciated. Yet, with this current novel, perhaps due to the timing, I’ve had questions like, “I wondered if you were deliberately setting out to show Jerusalem as a modern ‘Western’ city compared to the views we normally see on TV, or just reflecting life as you live it.” My response is that it absolutely reflects life as I live it and as most of the residents live it. People go about doing normal activities and talking about normal things. On the TV, they like to show everything in a different light. They seek out extremists and do all they can to exacerbate conflict. But even those extremists do and say normal, mundane things most of the time. And the rest of us go about our normal lives as much as we’re allowed to, which is most of the time.
I’m not suggesting murder is normal. But this murder is not the sort of abnormal you might expect from Jerusalem.
Many stories thrive on secrets and Style and the Solitary is no exception. But I won’t reveal any secrets here. You’ll discover them when you read the novel.
What would Asaf think of the book?
Asaf would consider himself unworthy of having a story written about him, just as he feels unworthy of having Nathalie in his life. He blames no one but himself for his woes. Being suspected of murder is admittedly unfortunate, but anyone else would have succeeded in clearing all suspicion long ago.
The new Style and the Solitary will be out soon. Watch this space.
The Strasbourg image is by Monika Neumann from Pixabay. Nathalie’s photo is by Andrea Piacquadio and Asaf’s is by fauxels.