The Debba

debba_novelAvner Mandelman

Sharp, biting prose distinguishes this first novel from Israeli author Mandelman (Talking to the Enemy, a story collection). In 1977, David Starkman returns from selfimposed exile in Canada to his native Israel after learning of the murder of his warhero father, Isser, the owner of a shoe shore. The killer stabbed Isser in the heart with one of Isser’s own knives, then mutilated his body. Isser’s will includes an unusual provision–that within 45 days, a controversial play he’d written, TheDebba, whose title refers to « an enigmatic Arab hyena that can walk like a man » and which had only been performed once, three decades earlier, be staged. David, who once belonged to an elite Israeli army unit responsible for carrying out targeted assassinations in « times of non-war, » decides to stick around to fulfill his father’s request, despite opposition from those who believe the play is subversive. The author deftly blends a murder mystery with a nuanced examination of the intransigent Israeli-Arab conflict. (Publishers Weekly)