Asylum City: A Novel
By Liad Shoham
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Caro
In this edgy thriller from the #1 international bestselling author of Lineup, which was described by New York Times bestselling author Joseph Finder as ‘a marvel of tight plotting, spare prose, and relentless pacing’, a young police officer’s investigation of a murder plunges her into the dark underworld of Tel Aviv.
When young social activist Michal Poleg is found dead in her Tel Aviv apartment, with her body showing signs of severe violence, Officer Anat Nachmias is given the lead on her first murder investigation. Eager to find answers, the talented and sensitive cop looks to the victim’s past for clues, focusing on the last days before her death. Could one of the asylum-seekers Michal worked with be behind this crime?
Then a young African man confesses to the murder, and Anat’s commanders say the case is closed. But the cop isn’t convinced. She believes that Michal, a tiny girl with a gift for irritating people, got involved in something far too big and dangerous for her to handle.
Joined by Michal’s clumsy yet charming boss, Anat is pulled deep into a perplexing shadow world where war victims and criminals, angels and demons, idealists and cynics, aid organizations and criminal syndicates intersect. But the truth may be more than Anat can handle, bringing her face to face with an evil she’s never before experienced.
In Asylum City, Israeli author Liad Shoham, describes to the reader more than a simple homicide case. Asylum City deals with the problems and issues that both Israelis and refugees face in their everyday lives trying to survive, in a changing society, as citizens and migrants. This is where OMA (Organization for Migrant Aid) director Itai fisher and volunteer Michal Poleg come in and help the African asylum seekers construct a better life.
Helping the asylum seekers is not an easy job, especially if you get too involved. Michal learns this, the hard way, after discovering an illegal organization that benefits itself from the refugees. Her death seems like a simple case to solve, but as the story progresses, we find out that there’s more to it than it looks like. She was a character I immediately related to, and could understand, being a volunteer myself. Though her death occurs at the beginning of the book, her presence is always present throughout the story helping it develop. She was a character I would have liked to know more of; read about her strong personality, helping Itai at OMA, how she acted with the refugees.
Then we have, Itai Fisher, a character equally willing to help whoever needs it. In this case, Gabriel Takela, an Eritrean refugee who confesses to Michal’s murder in order to help his sister. On one hand, we have an Israeli sacrificing himself to help the asylum seekers that can’t fully come to trust OMA or the Israelis; and, on the other hand, an Eritrean not thinking twice to sacrifice himself for the only person he might have left in the world. We see the struggles they have to face to fulfil their goals, and in the same way amend past actions.
Anat Nachmias, is the policewoman in charge, and heroine of the story. I liked a comment made by the author, in which he mentions how, while researching for the book, he came to realize that it would be a woman taking the role of hero. And, it actually fits the book, because I think only Anat could have the sensibility to understand Michal, Gabriel, and Itai, and not let anyone interfere with the case. She was a character to look forward to.
Asylum City is a book that shows the points of views of characters in different situations that come in full circle at the end within a government and society which is described as those who want to help and those who want to hurt. I liked how the author gave every character a role to play. I would have never suspected the killer to be that particular person. Several times I changed my mind of whom to suspect of; the banker, Yariv, Michal’s family, even Yariv’s girlfriend at some point. A mystery well written.
I will remember Asylum City’s story from now on. It’s a book that opens the reader’s mind into seeing the danger that exists for refugees not only in Africa, but in different parts of the world, ‘til this day, that seek asylum and a way for a better life. I recommend you read Asylum City if mystery is your genre, there is so much of this book one could discuss.