Short, spoiled and operatic is the 14 year old Persian Jewess who charms Gabe, the poor little rich foundling now living with Peter and Rena Decker. Gabe is a little lovable, a little weird, and very horny. But he is also a musical prodigy, with the lean blonde wits of his assassin father — the unforgettable and immemorial Chris Donatti. Once upon a time, long long ago, Chris Donati also went to highschool in L.A., fell in love in L.A., got in trouble in L.A.
Today L.A. is full of over-monied teenagers with guns, some suicidal, or maybe not. In between the clumsy romantic gropings of Gabe and his sobbing Persian Jewess are the good, old police investigations of Marge and Oliver, a little older, a little tired, a little weepy themselves. Are the high-school suicides really suicides? The whodunit falls by the wayside, unfortunately, and neither the fascinating Donatti nor his curious son can mobilize by this L.A. West Side story.
A few Jewish words referring to a few ritual baked goods eaten by a few Jews does not a Jewish novel make. Nor does a description of a modestly clad woman with her hair tied back by a long scarf. If the Peter Decker novels wielded some specific charm by virtue of their glimpse into orthodox Jewish life, that charm is gone. Gone too is the charm of an utterly believable relationship of utterly believable characters: husband and wife Peter and Rina. Instead we have an infinitely patient, infinitely wise, infinitely understanding wife who agrees with her husband agreeably, and a pouty teenaged daughter that contributes nothing to the conversation or the scenery but red hair. A police procedural on Prozac.
Rina Lazarus is a religious woman who cleans the ritual bath, cooks huge Sabbath meals, and teaches Math at a Yeshiva for boys in “Jewtown”, near L.A. She dresses modestly, covers her hair with a kerchief or a wig, and celebrates the Sabbath by hosting huge home cooked meals for the rabbis of the Ohavei Torah community. After a woman is raped while walking home from the bathhouse, Rina finds herself in the middle of a rape investigation, helping the red-haired goy-detective in charge. Peter Decker is enchanted by Rina, who reveals herself to him as a lover of the Book — which is what “Ohavei Torah” means.