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Picks and Pans Review: Zaddik

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by David Rosenbaum

Blending classic whodunit, European Jewish lore and magic realism into a rich and heady brew, journalist David Rosenbaum’s ambitious first novel delightfully pushes the mystery genre’s envelope.

When a dealer in Manhattan’s diamond district is brutally murdered—over an egg-size 72-carat stone with a rich and dangerous history—former NYPD detective and recovering alcoholic Dov Taylor is hired by a sect of ultraconservative Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn to get the bauble back. The hunt for what Taylor learns is the Seer’s Stone takes him into odd corners of the Yiddish-speaking world from Crown Heights, in New York City, to London, and pits him against ex-Nazis, the Mossad, the beautiful but dangerous Maria and Taylor’s own imagination.

With the help of a mystical rabbi, Taylor is put into a trance and mentally journeys back to 19th-century Lublin, Poland. There he meets an ancestor, his hard-drinking great-great-grandfather Hirsh Leib, a zaddik, or righteous man, who points Taylor to the heart of the contemporary riddle: Salvation is more important than success. Rich in finely observed details of Jewish history and ritual and leavened with dead-on humor, Zaddik is a diamond in the rough. (Mysterious Press, $19.95)