"A Possibility of Violence" is author D. A. Mishani's second novel featuring Israeli police inspector Avraham Avraham. The novel is, on the surface, a mystery/suspense piece and police procedural analysis. But its real function is to serve as an affecting and effective -- sometimes profound -- psychological exploration of the effects of guilt on the human psyche, specifically the psyche and behavior of Avraham, the protagonist.
The inspector is ridden with guilt because of the consequences of his work on his last important case, a case involving the death of a teen-age boy. So when a puzzling box containing a fake bomb turns up right outside a nursery school, Avraham feels he must find the individual who placed the box there, and he must find him or her quickly: the fake bomb may be a warning that the next one will be real. Another possibly unnecessary death must be avoided.
But because he feels he must move quickly, he also must make assumptions about various suspects' guilt or innocence, assumptions that may not be warranted. Those who love him feel that he is rushing to premature decisions as the investigation proceeds, but his guilt propels him inexorably forward.
Suspects and other important characters include a father of two children, one of whom attends the nursery school; the nursery school teacher, who is a rather miserable person; and other characters who seem minor but may turn out to be major players in the unraveling of the mystery. And then another, related, mystery arises. This one involves the recent disappearance of that father's young wife.
Mishani actually delves deeply into the minds of many of the characters, and they all are haunted by guilt associated with past deeds and misdeeds. His language, despite the complexities of the plot and the characters, is extraordinarily simple and direct. There is precious little physical description of characters or setting.
But there is an entirely intentional and very effective evocation of shadows, emotional fogs, and near-parallel behaviors of both the hunters and the hunted, all shrouded in mystery.
Finally, there is, again intentionally, very little feeling of denouement, of wrap-up or explanation. Avraham is just about as confused at the end as he was at the beginning. He is lost in the shadows -- like all of us in our most difficult times.
Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Harper, for review purposes.
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