Rating: 4 1/2 stars
In “Run You Down,” Julia Dahl takes readers back to New York and into the life of journalist Rebekah Roberts. She is the daughter of an Hasidic Jew and a Christian minister. They met in New York and ran away together to Florida. When Rebekah’s mother realized she was pregnant, she was terrified. And her terror didn’t abate when Rebekah was born. She fled Florida, Rebekah and Rebekah’s father and returned to the Hasidic Jewish community.
In this second book, Rebekah is still recovering from her first big investigation as a reporter. It involved the tight-knit Jewish community and a murder. Because the Orthodox Jews do not trust police and those who don’t know their ways, they prefer to take care of crimes in their communities by themselves. Which means that often, crimes are not investigated and people get away with murder — literally.
In this book, a member of the community approaches Rebekah because his wife died. While the community is saying that she committed suicide, the husband does not agree. Because his wife was on anti-depressants, the community shrugs the death off as having to do with drugs. The police don’t seem eager to investigate, either.
In both books, Dahl writes the stories on two levels. There is the mystery to be solved, but there is also the mystery of Rebekah’s mother. Where is she? Will Rebekah get to meet her? In this book, Rebekah gets closer and closer to meeting her mother. The mystery she is investigating is closer to home that she realizes at first. So close that Rebekah and maybe even her mother might be in danger.
Dahl’s writing style makes the story flow. Her knack for just the right amount of description and authentic dialogue keeps the reader turning page after page. The characters are likable, even if Rebekah may be younger than much of the reading audience. The glimpses the reader gets into the Hasidic Jewish community are also fascinating, if somewhat repellant (at least in this reviewer’s opinion). The lack of opportunities for women, the censorship of educational materials (references to dinosaurs, etc.), the refusal to rock the boat by stopping pedophiles because it might make it more difficult to get another child married.
The story also takes readers into the totally repugnant world of the skinheads — those who hate everyone who isn’t white and Christian, and even those who are white and Christian if they are gay.
All that and a mystery, too! The story will make more sense if the first book, “Invisible City,” is read prior to picking up this one.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover picture book provided by Minotaur Books for review purposes.