Author: Richard Steinitz

I have often wondered if the wildlife of a region can survive once a no-go border area is established between two countries. The hostilities between Israel and Jordan have necessitated an exclusion zone on the border between both countries which would surely include land clearing and an environmental climate inhospitable to birds and animals. It’s heartening to read in the opening chapter of Richard Steinitz’s novel, Murder Over The Border, that at the time the story was set (1980’s), antelopes still lived and grazed peacefully on the slopes surrounding the barbed wire sentry posts.

Yossi Abulafia, the book’s main character, is an Israeli policeman. Israeli citizens between the ages of 21 and 55 are called upon to perform an annual two weeks military reservist duty. Yossi’s occupation could have exempted him from this requirement but he liked to take a break from the grind of police work and having discovered the existence of little native antelopes on a previous tour of duty found it a great pleasure to record their graceful movements with his camera. The description of the sentry post and the laid back Israeli soldiers manning it was well done and I related to Yossi’s interest in photographing these delightful little animals.

On duty, Yossi, who should have been monitoring Jordanian movements across the border, is studying a group of antelopes through his telephoto lens. Attention court by a car traveling towards his post which comes to a halt nearby, Yossi is intrigued by the actions of two men who alight and engage in a heated argument. When one man appears to be about to draw a gun, the police man inherent in Yossi’s makeup causes him to lean forward on the sandbagged verandah for a better view. Camera, still running, he leans further out and the sandbags collapse, sending him plummeting down a steep incline; his body buffeted by rocks and the heavy telephoto lens.

Rescued by the soldiers at the sentry post, he is taken to hospital and after recovery is deemed unfit for active police service. Unwilling to take a desk job, Yossi accepts a job as an Interpol liaison officer. He travels to Amsterdam for an Interpol conference and is involved in a shootout which has a serious effect on his wellbeing and future activities.

The opening chapters of Murder Over The Border were interesting and unusual – the story appeared to be developing well. Unfortunately, in the ensuing chapters the action was often halted by too much dialogue between characters and descriptive sequences which did nothing to move the plot forward. This is a pity because Yossi Abulafia is a likeable character and the story, on the occasions when it got going, was exciting and in a regional setting and timeframe which is not often written about.

During the course of the story Richard Steinitz, a talented writer, presents a premise that all Israelis and Arabs of goodwill really do want a peaceful solution to the ongoing Middle East conflict and for this he is to be applauded. If you like a story which gives realistic glimpses of Israeli people, their cuisine and lifestyle then Richard Steinitz’s novel, Murder Over The Border, is the book for you.

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