Los Angeles Police Detective Peter Decker had grown very close to Rina's young sons, Sammy and Jake, as he had to their mother, and he looked forward to spending a day of his vacation camping with the boys. A nice reprieve from the grueling work of a homicide cop-until Sammy stumbles upon a gruesome sight...Two human skeletons, charred beyond recognition, are identified by a forensic dentist as teenage girls--and for Decker, the father of a sixteen-year-old daughter, vacation time is over. Throwing himself professionally and emotionally into the murder case, he launches a very personal investigation: a quest that pulls him deep into the crack dens of Hollywood Boulevard and painfully close to the children of the streets and a nightmare world he must make his own.
Peter Decker, detective sergeant in the LAPD, meets young widow Rina Lazarus while investigating an attempted rape at the yeshiva in Deep Canyon where she lives. Rina's religious convictions shape their ensuing relationship and Peter begins the process of converting, in part for his own spiritual needs and in part to be able to marry her. On a camping trip, Rina's young sons discover two charred skeletons, plunging Pete into a case that makes up one thread in this follow-up mystery to Kellerman's The Ritual Bath. Identifying the skeletons via complex dental work (Kellerman is a dentist and the wife of suspense novelist Jonathan Kellerman), Pete traces the murders back to a grisly pornography ring centering around "snuff" films, which climax in death. Wading through the underside of LA's sex-for-sale world, Pete questions the purpose and value of religion in his life. As the horror and death toll mount, he struggles to reconcile the sordid realities with the religious practices of the yeshiva. Pete's growing isolation from Rina and increasing despair comprise the secondperhaps primaryfocus in mystery. Though leaning too heavily on Hebrew words and on details of dentistry, and with more graphic violence than at times seems necessary, Kellerman brings the case to a resounding resolution, suggesting as well a believable conclusion to Pete's personal dilemma even as she leaves his future with Rina unresolved.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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November 08, 1999
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Excerpt from Sacred and Profane by Faye Kellerman
You can keep your white Christmas, thought Decker dreamily, as sunlight blanketed his prone frame. Give me December in L.A. anytime. Currier and Ives snowscapes looked swell on wrapping paper, but as far as he was concerned, icy Christmas winters were best left to penguins and polar bears.
Besides, he wasn't really sure what relevance Christmas -- with or without snow-held for him any more. No tree adorned the picture window of his living room, no cards sat atop the mantle of the fireplace, no multicolored lights hung along the wood planked siding of his ranch. Hell, here it was the day of Christmas Eve and he was out camping in the foothills, isolated from civilization, playing big brother to two little boys with yarmulkes. Christmas had never been a big deal to him but still it felt strange. Some habits were hard to shake.
Using his knapsack for a pillow, he shifted onto his back. The air was sweet and tangy, the ground rich with mulch. Throwing an arm over his eyes, he noticed that it had been cooked a deep salmon and he cursed his coloring, typical for a redhead -- all burn, no tan. He should have been more generous with the sunscreen. The arm, already dully throbbing, would blossom into full-fledged pain by tonight. He propped himself onto his elbows and called out to Ginger. The Irish setter trotted over to him, plopped down by his side, and went to sleep.
Decker glanced at Sammy, who sat twenty feet away, reading while dipping his toes into an isolated pool of rainwater. Behind him, a narrow stream carried mountain run-off from last week's rains. Earlier in the day, Decker had offered to take the boys wading, but Sammy had complained that the water was too cold. Though he wasn't weak or timid, he just wasn't keen on the outdoors. The star-studded nighttime sky, the hikes, the cookouts had left him unmoved. Though he insisted he was having the time of his life, Decker knew the kid would have been just as happy holed up anywhere as long as he had Decker's undivided attention. The boy could talk. Often, after his younger brother, Jacob, had fallen asleep, Sammy would start to pour his heart out, engaging Decker in conversation that sometimes lasted until the early hours of the morning. He was an overly mature kid, not surprising for the first born who'd taken on the role of man of the house.
Jacob was a different story. The eternal optimist, an enthusiastic youngster who could elicit a smile from a slab of marble. Great at amusing himself. Right now he was busy watching an ant hill, eyes glued to the nonstop action.
Decker enjoyed both of the boys, but knew if he walked out of their lives tomorrow, Jake would recover quickly. Sammy was the vulnerable one. And that worried him because his relationship with their mother was so ambiguous. He and Rina were in love but not yet lovers. Her religious values forbade intimacy outside or marriage, and marriage right now was impossible. They were in limbo until Decker officially converted.
There was an easy way out. He could reveal to Rina that he was adopted and that his biological parents were Jewish, so there was no legal reason for him to convert.
But he didn't consider that a viable option. Too dishonest. He was a product of his real parents -- the man and woman who'd nurtured him. And they had raised him a Baptist. Besides, Rina deserved a genuinely committed Jew for a husband, not a Jew by accident of birth. Anything less would make her miserable. He knew he'd have to come to Orthodoxy on his own.
He inhaled deeply, filling his lungs with the pungent, crisp air.
He was making progress. His weekly sessions with Rabbi Schulman had shown him to be a quick learner. So far, he had no trouble grasping the intellectual and legal aspects of Judaism. But Hebrew remained a roadblock. The boys loved to play teacher with him, drilling him on the alef beis from their first grade primers, correcting his pronunciation and handwriting. They giggled when he made a mistake and flooded him with compliments when he came up with a correct answer. It was a game with them, an ego boost to instruct a grown-up, and though he went along with their lessons good-naturedly, inside, in spite of himself, he was humiliated. Afterwards, he'd return home and take out his feeling of frustration on his horses, running them around his acreage, working up a sweat until he smelled like a man and no longer felt like a child.
He lay back down and groaned. You're on vacation, he admonished himself. Take it easy and forget your obligations. He had no trouble blanking out work, but as always, his cloudy status with Rina -- and Judaism -- continued to gnaw at him. Seeing life through the skewed eye of a cop, Decker found faith hard to come by.