Murder Under the Bridge (Book 1)
Winner of the Independent Publishers Book Awards (IPPY) 2016 silver medal for mystery.
Rania is the only female Palestinian police detective in the northern West Bank. She is also a young mother, in a rural community where many believe women should not have such dangerous careers. When she discovers the body of a foreign woman on the edge of her village, her investigation puts her career, her son, and even her life in jeopardy.
Chloe is a Jewish American peace worker with a camera and a big attitude. Laid-off from her tech job in Silicon Valley, she came to Palestine to learn about the situation. Now, after nine months in the country, she dreams of single-handedly bringing peace to the Middle East.
Can these two women bridge the cultural gulf that separates them and find out who murdered Nadya Kim? Their investigation takes them from the refugee camp in Jenin to the beaches of Eilat, revealing secrets about war crimes and Israel’s thriving sex trafficking trade. Fast-paced and intricately plotted, Murder Under The Bridge is an intimate look at the lives of women in the Middle East.
“Raphael has created a wonderful cast, most especially her Palestinian policewoman, Rania, and a taut, page-turning plot. But the real star here is the setting. When an immigrant is murdered, Rania’s investigations take her directly into the treacherous, deadly politics of Israel and Palestine. Authoritatively and vividly rendered, MURDER UNDER THE BRIDGE is a compelling read.”
— Karen Joy Fowler, PEN/Faulkner prize winning author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and The Jane Austen Book Club
“Raphael thoroughly captures the tension of life on the West Bank by setting a murder in a location marked by daily violence. Substantial yet humanly flawed female protagonists give depth to both the mystery … and the political and social turmoil of the region.”
— Library Journal, starred review
Buy now Sample chapters
Murder Under the Fig Tree (Book 2) (Lambda nominee
Foreword INDIES Book of the Year)
The bold heroines of Murder Under the Bridge are back, and they’re in trouble.
Hamas has taken power in Palestine, and the Israeli government is rounding up threats. Palestinian policewoman Rania Bakara finds herself thrown in prison, though she has never been part of Hamas. Chloe flies in from San Francisco to free her friend – and rekindle her romance with Tina, a beautiful Palestinian Australian. The only way Rania can get out of jail is by agreeing to investigate the death of a young gay Palestinian in a village near her home.
With Chloe and Tina as guides, Rania plunges into a subculture she never knew existed: exploring a Jerusalem gay bar, meeting with a lesbian support group, getting to know the young man’s secret lovers. The investigation tests her deepest loyalties and forces her to question her beliefs about love, justice, and cultural identity.
“Once again, Raphael has delivered a powerful, textured, boldly imagined, and brilliantly executed portrait of Palestine and Israel that is also a wicked pleasure to read. There are no characters in fiction quite like Rania and Chloe. Not to be missed!”
–Carolina de Robertis, author of The Invisible Mountain
“Murder Under the Fig Tree is a beautifully written and layered novel that takes on the complexities and ambiguities of Palestinian life; it’s also a damn good mystery that convincingly demonstrates a crime novel can also be fine literature.”
–Michael Nava, author of Lay Your Sleeping Head
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What people are saying:
“The mix of murder and politics makes for fascinating reading, made even richer by the revealing glimpse of life in the occupied territories.”
“This riveting story provides a rich portrait of life behind the headlines of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
— Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Treasure
“One of the best mysteries I’ve read in a long time. Kept me from doing ten important things I should have been doing, because I just had to finish it! Kate Raphael writes great women characters and does a fantastic job of portraying the realities of Palestinian life as background to a gripping story.”
— Starhawk, best-selling author of The Fifth Sacred Thing and The Spiral Dance
“A stunning mystery novel by a talented new writer. Anyone picking up the book will be drawn in by Rania and Chloe, a dynamic, realistic, pair of women sleuths who bridge cultural divide and distrust to investigate a death on the Israeli-Palestinian border. Raphael’s experience in the Middle East adds convincing detail to this compassionate and suspenseful tale. An outstanding addition to the global mystery field. More, please!”
Sujata Massey, author of The Sleeping Dictionary
“Kate Raphael gives us smart, complex women who challenge the boundaries of states and expand the boundaries of mysteries. This is a great read!”
–Elana Dykewomon, Lambda award winning author of Beyond the Pale
“Strong and complex female characters, a unique and vividly drawn setting, and an utterly compelling story—Kate Jessica Raphael offers you everything you could possibly want in a page-turning mystery. Let’s hope this is the first of many novels to come.”
—Elaine Beale, author of Murder in the Castro
I missed your book launch at the event advertised by MECA. Yet t was happy to order both UNDER books from MECA. I appreciate very much that your experience in Israel/Palestine was so very honest even if painful to write and for us to read the truth. A tragedy for Juadism and Palestinians. There seems to be no end of the cycles of violence and hatdred. Having read extensively about the Holocaust it is shocking that many of the techniques of that period are employed by the Israeli government. It bogs the mind to wonder how those survivors now living in Israel do not seem to show their outrage at such conduct. As your book makes clear, there are Israelis anti-apartheid and anxious to break the violence for and by both groups. You are indeed a courageous woman to describe your experiences and those of Palestinians. Thank you, Kate!
I look forward to your next book.
It would please me to put you in touch with a very well-connected Palestinian friend – banned from entering Israel to even visit his birth home. He may well have film contacts for you. Again, thank you!
Thank you so much, Jeannine. I am glad you appreciate the books. And thanks for ordering them from MECA; it’s such a joy to be able to support their work with my books.
Feel free to give your friend my email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I would love to talk with him. And film contacts of course are most welcome! But not required. 🙂
When an issue or a population has been described from a single point of view in the media for many years, a portrayal of the issue or the population from another point of view can seem unwarranted or biased. I think this is the situation for the reviewer “Larry.” Whether the subject is slavery, racism and the African American experience in the US, or a military occupation and the oppression of the Palestinian people in the Middle East, it is difficult for many people to understand the reality for people whose voices have rarely been heard. I think Kate does a good job of bringing into our consciousness the perspectives and sensibilities of a people who have been silenced for too long. Her books show Palestinians of various types as human beings instead of as the caricatures with which “Larry” is familiar. Good books, Kate! I hope you write more.
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As a longtime mystery reader, it was a delight to read your MURDER UNDER THE BRIDGE, to add another part of the world to my mystery reading. I found your characters believable, the actions described in accord with what I have learned from my various readings of Middle Eastern materials and as an elder Jewish woman appreciated your tackling such difficult matter. Keep writing Kate – I look forward to the next book in what I hope will be a long series! Mazel Tov.
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Thank you, Sheila. Great to hear that you liked the book. The next one is on the press now! and will be out in September. Look forward to your feedback.
I did not like Murder under the Bridge. Here is why:
It’s generally a good thing to question one’s own biases when selecting a reading, even in fiction. Having previously admired several nuanced murder-political whodunits by Matt Benyon Rees featuring the intellectually honest UN teacher, Omar Youssef, I had been looking forward to a comparably worthy effort featuring a female Palestinian detective from the very interesting She Writes Press (www.shewritespress.com). While Murder under the Bridge by Kate Jessica Raphael offers a complex plot involving murder, sex trafficking, and political cover-up against the backdrop of the interaction of Palestinians and Israelis, the story disappointed me in its overwhelming propagandistic bias.
Unlike what one finds in a good novel, the characters are mostly caricatures. The plot is merely a vehicle for an undisguised polemic against Israel, Israelis and Jews. The intrepid Palestinian detective, Rania, seems to be after the truth, but it turns out that her desire to exonerate a (wrongly arrested) Palestinian college student is what really drives her. Despite encountering and associating with a number of Israelis, the author never allows any amity to grow between Rania and them. Despite the author’s intent to exalt Chloe, the self-appointed defender of the Palestinian cause, she comes off as a self-denying leftist San Franciscan Jew. (The main thing that gives her some depth is her lesbianism , the scenes of which are superfluous to the plot.)
All Israeli characters in the story but one are depicted as contemptuous and brutal, or at the least, contemptuous, arrogant liars regarding Palestinians. Real events to which Ms. Raphael refers that resulted in Israeli actions against Palestinian terrorism and violence are characterized as unprovoked criminal actions. On the other hand, all Palestinians are shown to be innocent, truthful, peaceful and completely justified in their animus to the “yahud” whose presence in the West Bank is portrayed as a crime against nature.
Rania condones acts of violence by Palestinians against Israelis and through her, the author portrays Yasir Arafat as a heroically blameless leader. Over and over throughout the story, Ms. Raphael, clearly a feminist, completely glosses over, tacitly excusing, the inferior position of women in the Islamic society she portrays. Surprisingly, the Arab men in the story are notably polite and considerate of their women. The Israeli men are shown to be contemptuous of Arabs and condescending to Rania as a policewoman.
Here are a few of the most egregious examples of the author’s animus toward Israel, Israelis and Jews:
p. 13: Chloe is radicalized because of the supposed murder of the 12-year old Mohhamed al-Dura. The reporting of this so-called murder of a child by an Israeli sniper during the 2000 intifada was subsequently proved to be false, and the incident itself, contrived (http://www.meforum.org/3076/muhammad-al-dura-hoax) by the perpetrators of the intifada.
pp. 16-19: Humiliation of Palestinian day laborers led by an Israeli Druse commander named “Top Killer.”
p. 43: Even a Palestinian sympathizer, Abe, “walked like an Israeli. That special arrogance shone in his face.”
p. 65: Rania overhears Israeli soldiers “excited to be on this mission because they might be able to beat people up.”
p.66: “You (Arabs) were lucky if you got to take a bath twice a week,” voicing the libel that Israel denies water to West Bank Arabs.
p. 101: “Israelis had all kinds of gruesome murders, drug, crime that Palestinian villages never imagined.” Really! Fatah, Hamas et al. are not criminal gangs?
p. 102: Israeli police women “with big chests” “. . . treated her like something they found on the bottom of their shoes.”
p. 123: Israelis, ransacking the dwelling of an uncompliant Palestinian family, are portrayed as not really searching for anything. “At least they weren’t peeing on it, like the ones who had searched the home of a friend of hers in Jenin.”
p. 130: Rania muses that her Israeli police counterpart might be implicated in the massacres of the Beirut Sabra and Shatila refugee camps during the war 1982 in which Arafat and his gang were driven from Lebanon. In fact, the massacres were committed by Christian militia.
p. 158: Israeli police, as conveyed by her own captain, threaten to arrest Rania’s 6-year old son, unless she backs off the investigation.
p. 166: Chloe states as a bald fact that the killing of terrorist’s in Jenin in 2002 was a massacre of civilians. In fact, the Arab dead were not civilians, but armed militants, killed in house-to-house fighting at the cost of 23 Israeli lives that would not have been sacrificed had heavy weapons been used.
p. 169: Rania judges Israeli soldiers as “post-pubescent brats.”
p. 193: Finally, a good Israeli, is one who had committed suicide out of guilt for his role in Jenin.
P: 196: Reacting to orthodox Jewish hooligans who threw eggs at her, Rania accuses “their God” of “not being very nice.” Perhaps she forgot the term “jihad” in Arabic.
p. 211: This is the only time in the book that Rania explicitly concedes the humanity of Jews. She indirectly chides her young son by saying “’Jew’ doesn’t mean a bully. It’s like saying ‘terrorist’ means ‘Palestinian.’”
p.233 Even though Rania is a PA official, clearly wanting to comfort the young man she knows is wrongly accused of murder, she refrains from touching him as “haram.”
p. 301: With Rania in disguise, the PC San Franciscan author has her voice the hope, “don’t let him recognize my face. How could he? Palestinians looked alike to Israelis.”
p.311: In a backhanded smear of perfidious Israelis, Ranis has to “concede” that the Israeli young man who is a Palestinian sympathizer had courage to confront the real killer who is armed with a loaded gun.
Ms. Raphael misuses fake history around which to build the solution to the murder and denouement to the story (pp. 312-316). The villain’s original crime and its murderous cover-up is the so-called massacre in Jenin during the 2002 Arab intifada. In fact, the claim of a massacre was a hoax trumped up by terrorist politicians, leftist true believers and a gullible press. (All responsible media eventually disavowed such an event; here is a disavowal of inaccurate, hasty reportage by the left-of-center Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2002/may/06/mondaymediasection5.)
The main value of this story is that if one wishes to demonize Israelis as immoral, venal, brutal and arrogant colonizers of an innocent pastoral people, this is the book for you. If you seek a police procedural story with context in the Israeli-Arab environment, one that recognizes the complex motives, virtues and flaws of interesting characters on both sides of the ethno-religious conflict, go to the Omar Youssef stories.
Thanks for your comment. I personally found the Matt Rees books virtually unreadable, not just because I disagree with his politics but because he doesn’t seem to know what an emotional arc is. But obviously, everyone is different.
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I don’t have time to go through a point-by-point rebuttal to Larry’s lengthy diatribe. Let me just say that most of the specific incidents of oppressive Israeli behavior that Raphael describes in the book are thinly disguised accounts of things that really happened.
Also I did not find the characters to be caricatures at all, but complex and believable people, especially Rania, who i related to as a person who has tried to juggle career, family, husband and mother-in-law expectations, gender roles on the job, and a bunch of other stuff. Possibly Larry didn’t recognize the questioning of traditional gender roles because he doesn’t get the subtleties of what women actually deal with, and expected to find abstract denunciations of sexism.
Also — reflecting the perceptions of a whole group of people seems to me a very legitimate point of view in fiction. You can call it propaganda when you disagree with it, if you want, but you might learn more by asking why these people have these perceptions.
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Signing up for more news of books. BTW Cheryl Dunye is a local lesbian filmmaker. Talk to her. She just directed a segment of Queen Sugar.
She also has a facebook page:
Thanks! I was a little bit joking but I might try anyway.–K
I just finished reading MURDER UNDER THE BRIDGE, and had to let you know how much I loved everything about it. It was suspenseful, compelling, moving, enlightening, provocative and even in some places downright funny. Even more important to me than the book’s entertainment value is the fact that I came away from it feeling like I now know a lot more about the Palestinian struggle in its day-to-day stresses and traumas, as well as what gives the Palestinians the strength to persevere. BTW, I also think this would make an incredibly powerful film!!!
Thank you so much for letting me know! Your reaction is exactly what I wanted people to get out of the book. I hope you’ll share it with friends.
Re: a film, I am kinda on the lookout for someone who would want to take it on. I am trying to figure out if I can get a copy to the producers of Omar or another film I saw at the Arab Film Festival called “Love, Theft & Other Entanglements.” But if anyone has Ava Duvernay’s phone number, hand it over!
Thanks again for writing.