Gur, Batya 1947-
GUR, Batya 1947-
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins Publishers, 10 E. 53rd St., 7th Fl., New York, NY 10022.
CAREER: Writer and teacher.
Retsah beShabat baboker: roman balashi, Keter (Yerushalayim, Israel), 1988, translation by Dalya Bilu published as The Saturday Morning Murder: A Psychoanalytic Case, Aaron Asher (New York, NY), 1992.
Mavet bahug lesifrut: roman balashi, Keter (Yerushalayim, Israel), 1989, translation by Dalya Bilu published as Literary Murder: A Critical Case, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
Mikevish hara'av 'semolah: temunah kevutsatit 'im nashim, gevarim viyeladim be'ayarat pituah (title means "Next to Hunger Road"), Keter (Yerushalayim, Israel), 1990.
Linah meshutefet: retsah bakibuts: roman balashi, Keter (Yerushalayim, Israel), 1991, translation by Dalya Bilu published as Murder on a Kibbutz: A Communal Case, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
Lo kakh te 'arti li (title means "Afterbirth"), Keter (Yerushalayim, Israel), 1994.
haMerhak haNakhon: retsah musikali, Keter (Yerushalayim, Israel), 1996, translation published as Murder Duet: A Musical Case, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
Even tahat even (title means "Stone for a Stone"), Keter (Yerushalayim, Israel), 1998.
Meragel be-tokh ha-bayit (title means "Spy eithin the House"), Keter (Yerushalayim, Israel), 2000.
Retsah be-Derekh Bet Lehem (title means "Murder on Beth Lehem Road"), Keter (Yerushalayim, Israel), 2001.
SIDELIGHTS: Bestselling and critically lauded Israeli author Batya Gur is a literature teacher in Jerusalem. She is the author of what is considered the first mystery novel by an Israeli author to reach an American audience, Saturday Morning Murder: A Psychoanalytic Case. The novel introduces Gur's detective, Chief Inspector Michael Ohayon.
"With sly, affectionate humor and acute insight, this flawless mystery by an Israeli literature professor traces the parallel processes of police detection and psychoanalysis," wrote a Publishers Weekly critic. The novel revolves around the death of a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Psychoanalytic Institute. Marilyn Stasio, in the New York Times Book Review, called the work a "subtly provocative procedural mystery," arguing that "characters are examined in such depth and detail that the motive eventually uncovered for the murder makes perfect, if perfectly horrid, sense." A Time critic also lauded the work, and noted that Gur "sketches characters with deft, quick brushstrokes." A critic for Publishers Weekly concluded: "A complex, fully satisfying resolution wraps up this masterful American debut."
Gur's Literary Murder: A Critical Case, was similarly received by critics. The work follows now-Superintendent of Criminal Investigations Michael Ohayon as he investigates the deaths of two professors from the literature department of Hebrew University in Jerusalem who are both killed the same weekend. A Publishers Weekly critic described the work as a "complex mystery set in an unusual, well-developed milieu with a full cast of multidimensional characters" and called it "a literary pleasure." Susan Kenney offered a more mixed review of the novel in the New York Times Book Review: "Unfortunately for hardcore detective story readers, the answers . . . are all too obvious and the outcome predictable early on. However, for those who savor the scholarly questions and literary meditations that fill out the rest of this somewhat overlong narrative, it is well worth pressing on to the conclusion." Gail Pool in Wilson Library Bulletin called Ohayon "intelligent, cultured, handsome, tough but caring, and brilliant but modest.... [Batya] leads us capably through a thoroughly absorbing, exceptionally thought-provoking mystery."
Murder on a Kibbutz, originally published in Hebrew in 1991 and published in English translation in 1994, again features Ohayon, who now finds himself promoted to the head of the Serious Crimes Unit in Jerusalem. The novel explores the institution of the kibbutz after Ohayon becomes embroiled in a case involving the death of a beautiful kibbutz secretary named Osnat Harel. The work "yields a fascinating account of the ways in which this quintessential Israeli institution has changed, and in some ways failed to change," wrote a critic for Publishers Weekly. The critic faulted the work for an overabundance of subplots, but found that toward the end "the pace picks up nicely, and the resolution has a powerful inevitability." Ilene Cooper in Booklist called the work "a compelling mix of character study and social history," concluding: "A superb, multidimensional novel, the best in an outstanding series."
Gur's 1996 novel, published in English translation in 1999 as Murder Duet: A Musical Case, involves the possible discovery of a previously unknown Vivaldi requiem and the murder of cellist Nita van Gelden's father. Chief Superintendent Ohayon, now divorced, is torn between his affection for Nita and his duty to impartially investigate the murder. The novel explores in detail the lives of classical musicians and music history. A critic for Publishers Weekly wrote that, though "Gur constructs her plot carefully, the novel is most memorable for its abundant digressions on music history and musical life." Marilyn Stasio in the New York Times Book Review added that "for pure reading pleasure, nothing touches the smart discussions on music and art (which flow like dinner conversation in Dalya Bilu's translation from the Hebrew), along with the intimate scenes of musicians at serious work and at murderous play." Bill Ott in Booklist concluded: "From the foreboding opening notes of Brahms' First Symphony, which Ohayon plays in the novel's first scene, through Nita's brother's discussion of the classical style, the 'music-saturated air' informs the novel's substance as powerfully as it does its atmosphere. A virtuoso performance."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 1994, Ilene Cooper, review of Murder on a Kibbutz, p. 581; September 15, 1999, Bill Ott, review of Murder Duet, p. 236.
New York Times Book Review, June 21, 1992, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Saturday Morning Murder, p. 21; December 26, 1993, Susan Kenney, "Death Comes to the Professor"; November 21, 1999, Marilyn Stasio, review of Murder Duet, p. 80.
Publishers Weekly, April 13, 1992, review of The Saturday Morning Murder, p. 45; October 11, 1993, review of Literary Murder, p. 72; October 17, 1994, review of Murder on a Kibbutz, p. 66; November 1, 1999, review of Murder Duet, p. 76.
Time, August 3, 1992, review of The Saturday Morning Murder, p. 75.
Wilson Library Bulletin, January, 1994, Gail Pool, review of Literary Murder, p. 107.*