Follow Here To Purchase The Wolf and the Lamb: A Jerusalem Mystery (Jerusalem Mysteries)

Author: Frederick Ramsay

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press; 1 edition (December 2, 2014)

ISBN-10: 1464203288

ISBN-13: 978-1464203282

While billed as his fourth "Jerusalem Mystery," Frederick Ramsay's The Wolf and The Lamb is really the third in a series (including Holy Smoke and The Eighth Veil) featuring an unlikely detective, Rabban Gamaliel, chief rabbi of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of first-century Israel. In this story, Gamaliel's quest is to prove the innocence of Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea and overseer of Palestine, who's been arrested for murder. Gamaliel is unhappily coerced into investigating the crime because Pilate can't trust Roman authorities. He plays on Rabban's sense of justice, even though helping Pilate could endanger Gamaliel's place among his own people. At the same time, as Jews celebrate Passover, the zealous High Priest of the Temple, Caiaphas, stalks and then arrests the Galilean upstart Yeshua ben Joseph, the man we'd come to know as Jesus Christ.

In this multi-layered tale, Gamaliel is immediately suspicious of the charges against Pilate. After all, what sort of fool would use his own ceremonial knife to stab a political rival, Aurelius Decimus, and be caught red handed at the scene of the crime? If not Pilate, then who's behind the apparent conspiracy to frame Pilate and have him shipped back to Rome? Just who is Pilate’s slave Marius, who follows Gamaliel around but apparently isn't on Pilate's payroll? And how does Caiaphas's dogged pursuit of Yeshua ben Joseph tie into Pilate's decision to approve a crucifixion he hopes will appease a far distant emperor?

The Wolf and the Lamb is a complex tale with many literal twists and turns, although some plot points are too obviously contrived. It's strange to witness Gamaliel and his physician friend Loukas (as in Holmes and Watson?) wander all over the city for hours on end simply to shake off surveillance. Rabban apparently has few duties and meets with very few people. It's rather odd to see the head of the Sanhedrin poisoning a horse while hiding in its stall in order to ask Pilate's wife some questions.

The point of it all is to follow Gamaliel as he ultimately connects all the dots. It's worth noting readers might get a glimpse into historical contexts of the time, but Ramsay is not a vivid painter of the places Gamaliel goes. We get very little flavor of what Jerusalem was like in terms of sensory details including colors, foods, or scents. Certainly by design, the quietest character in the book is Yeshua ben Joseph who is talked about, but Ramsay avoids putting him in situations where the reader would get any meaningful descriptions of him or dialogue from his mouth. This time around, this isn't his story.

There's an audience for books like these, mainly readers who like talkie mystery stories set in unusual historical settings. In addition, some might see the events leading up to the crucifixion in a new, if fictional, light. It's a diverting read, but not a Biblical era epic.