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Shaking Hands With Lefkowitz

Author: Melvin Foster
Genre: Fantasy
Reviewed by Ruth Mark

551This debut from Melvin Foster is part murder-mystery, part search for the meaning of life. It begins promisingly. In the first few pages we learn that the protagonist, Alan Borman/Boroshefsky (his Jewish name), has been shot dead, and Detective Lefkowitz is there to help Alan solve his own murder.

This first ‘twist’ – that the book’s main character is the one who has been murdered -- is enough to pique readers’ interest. A page- turner, this novel is mostly well-written with adequate dialogue. The characters are reasonably believable (I wasn’t convinced by Lefkowitz however…I was left wondering who he is/what he is). Alan himself doesn’t really know who Lefkowitz is, but says: “Detective or angel, Lefkowitz was the one true connection to my life.” (page 62). Unfortunately, we never do find out what this actually means.

Despite these uncertainties you still want to find out how Alan, a successful lawyer, managed to end up dead in a dodgy neighborhood. Was it a random killing or was he killed for a reason? Lefkowitz believes the latter and the only way Alan will solve his case is to re-live the sins he committed in life.

Whether Alan is in Heaven, Hell or Limbo isn’t clear, but he’s certainly in a strange place. A place where the walls change color according to his moods/thoughts, where time doesn’t appear to matter, and where cigars taste of whatever the smoker desires. Alan himself doesn’t have a human ‘skin’ and ‘subtle energy’ are the buzz words.

There are many references to Heaven: Alan meets his guardian angel (everyone apparently has one from birth), the Pearly Gates are mentioned, and there is even a Burning Bush room. The importance of each dead person’s ‘Ten Worst’ list is emphasized and brings the Ten Commandments to mind, while a computer system stores the good & black marks for and against everyone who has died. Alan can’t resist comparing his list with those of others.

Alan and Lefkowitz discuss the case in Interrogation Room 989G, a size-changing cubicle of a room situated in some kind of maze of corridors. Lefkowitz has a theory – in order to find out who killed him Alan must work through all the moments in his life when he ‘hardened his heart’. Anecdotes from Alan’s life, especially those from his childhood and where he grew up, follow in glorious (if repetitive) detail. We’re also introduced to another key character – Arlene Jaffe – the girl Alan spurned as a teenager. She appears to be (and is) key to solving the crime.

There are a few times when the chapters don’t have any kind of transition – we switch from Alan to Arlene and (after a few chapters) back again with little or no warning. It takes a while for the reader to get oriented. The Point of View also switches around while paradoxically the pace of the plot is a little slow after the first interest-grabbing chapters. There are also far too many chapters while the author only uses a handful of cliffhangers at the end of a few of them.

It is an interesting book with a surprising (and not entirely convincing) twist at the end. If I’m honest, I found the ending quite disappointing – I was left expecting more that wasn’t delivered. I was also left with a sense of déjà vu and wondering what the point of the book was. There is a lot of moralizing throughout, while the overwhelming message to think before we act or our behaviors will affect others (and sometimes in ways that we cannot predict) is admirable. That nothing is random or coincidental, that ultimately we will have to atone for our sins if we hope for any form of redemption is the Old Testament teaching of how people can obtain the key to Heaven. A message wrapped in fiction? A safe way to do it? Possibly…

Meanwhile the clichés (e.g. Alan was “dead as a doornail” page 63) and stereotypes abound (we’re left thinking masturbation is wrong for instance, see pages 74 & 75) and are at times very irritating. I also felt like screaming when the word ‘tears’ was used yet again (there’s a lot of crying in this book and eventually you become so immune to it you reach the point when you cease to care what happens).

In conclusion, this book will either make you think or leave you cold. It is, however, a page-turner and that in itself is admirable in a first work of fiction.

Link

May 19, 2004 in Fantasy | Permalink

Comments

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And how you feel? Sorry bad English.

Posted by: Zeratulss | Nov 12, 2007 7:21:10 PM

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