Kellerman, Jonathan and Jesse. “The Golem of Hollywood”, Putnam Adult, 2014.
A Supernatural Mystery
The story of the Golem of Prague seems to be a story that will last forever—each new generation is taken with it. The Golem was a creature fashioned by a sixteenth-century rabbi to protect his congregation and it is now lying dormant in the garret of a synagogue or so was thought. It appears that the Golem is no longer.
When detective Jacob Lev awakes one morning, he is confused and befuddled. He thinks that he picked up a beautiful girl in a bar the night before but he can’t really remember anything more about it and she is suddenly gone before he realizes it or has a chance to ask a question. This is but a minor mystery when we consider his new case. He is sent to investigate a murder scene high up in the Hollywood hills. He has received a new assignment to a Special Projects squad, one he did not know ever existed. No body could be found and all that was there was a head, unidentified, on the floor of the house. Burned into the wooden kitchen counter was the word “justice” written in Hebrew.
This case will take Lev on quite a journey—Los Angeles, other parts of America, London and Prague and it will test all that he has learned and believed. Jonathan and Jesse Kellermans (father and son) give us a book that is part mystery, part folklore, part fantasy, and part biblical history lesson. There are parallel stories and we meet the following characters: Jacob Lev, a discredited alcoholic former LAPD detective, busted to traffic patrol, the family of Cain and Abel, Jacob’s father Sam, rabbinic and Kabala scholar who is dealing with the memory of Jacob’s bi-polar (schizophrenic) artistic mother, a mysterious faction of the LAPD, calling themselves “Special Projects,” that mysteriously enlists Lev to solve a bizarre case and then there are giant bugs, the Golem of Prague and Rabbi Loeb/Loew who created the Golem back in 1580
Lev is given a credit card, a computer, some forensic assistance, and instructions to solve the case. As he moves to begin his investigation so does the Cain and Abel family. Lev travels though Hollywood, to Prague and beyond, hunting down the perpetrator(s) of the crimes and the mysteries behind them. Actually solving the crime is no problem—it is how Lev solves it. The story begins in the present and we learn that Lev had once been a religious Orthodox Jew who is now an agnostic. Because of his religious background he is put on the case and then the action of the story moves back in time to the Bible and to the story of Cain and Abel. In fact the entire book moves back and forth in time.
There are chapters about Lev, his police work and personal life and then there is the Biblical story and then there is the story of the 16th century Jewish mystic, the Maharal of Prague, and his legendary golem. It does help if you know some of the Jewish background but it is not really necessary.
So we have these story lines going on and eventually they merge but much later. Lev’s story is straightforward and cleverly printed on white paper while the biblical story of Cain and Abel is printed on pages with a tint. In this way, it is possible, but not recommended, to read each story separately.
The Detective Lev story is presented to the reader on white pages. The story of Cain & Abel story comes to us on white paper which has a kind of misty tint to the pages. If you wanted, you could read the stories separately because the white pages stand out clearly from the tinted pages.
The two stories take place in cultures which are entirely different from each other and which are separated by thousands of years. Both are excellent reads with great dialogue, plot and characters. Then we add the Golem story which does not come together with the others until the very end. There were moments when I admired the ambition of the authors but then were also moments when I felt that this had to be one of the most ludicrous books I have ever read. Here we meet a cop who at 31 one years old is washed up in his career, has been married and divorced twice, a Harvard dropout and a drinker. But he is also a Jew, albeit a lapsed one and we do not find too many Jewish cops (in California anyway). Because of this, he gets a special assignment and our story begins. And this is also where I stop summarizing and chide you to get a copy and have a great time reading this book.